Browsing by Author "Van Wilgen, Brian W."
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- ItemAn analysis of the recent fire regimes in the Angolan catchment of the Okavango Delta, Central Africa(SpringerOpen [Commercial Publisher], 2022-07) Van Wilgen, Brian W.; De Klerk, Helen M.; Stellmes, Marion; Archibald, SallyBackground: This paper presents an analysis of fire regimes in the poorly studied Angolan catchment of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. We used MODIS data to examine the frequency and seasonality of fires over 20 years (from 2000 to 2020) in three dominant vegetation types (miombo woodlands, open woodlands and grasslands, and short closed to open bushlands), and in areas where people were present, and where they were absent. Results: The median fire return intervals for both open woodlands and grasslands and short bushlands were relatively short (1.9 and 2.2 years respectively). In miombo woodlands, fires were less frequent (median return periods of 4.5 years). Human population density had no discernible effect on the fire return intervals, but about 14% of the miombo woodlands experienced no fires over 20 years. Ongoing shifting cultivation within miombo woodlands has led to structural changes and the introduction of fire into this vegetation type where fires were rare or absent in the past. About 12% of the miombo did not burn during the period examined where people were present, whereas close to 20% of the sites remained unburnt where people were absent. This suggests that people did not change the fire return interval in any of the vegetation types studied, but that they altered the amount of the landscape that is flammable in miombo vegetation. Fires occurred between June and September, with a peak in the late dry season (August and September). Conclusions: Historical research indicates that late dry-season fires are detrimental to miombo woodlands, and our analysis suggests that degradation in parts of the catchment has led to the introduction of fire to this previously firefree and fire-sensitive vegetation type. Deforestation of miombo woodlands, and the consequent introduction of fire, is a cause for concern with respect to the ecological stability of the Okavango Delta. Managers should therefore aim to protect the remaining closed-canopy miombo stands from further clearing and to attempt to shift the timing of burns to the early dry season to reduce their intensity.
- ItemAn approach to the development of a national strategy for controlling invasive alien plant species : the case of Parthenium hysterophorus in South Africa(AOSIS Publishing, 2016) Terblanche, Colette; Nanni, Ingrid; Kaplan, Haylee; Strathie, Lorraine W.; McConnachie, Andrew J.; Goodall, Jeremy; Van Wilgen, Brian W.Invasive alien species require co-ordinated strategic management if negative impacts are to be effectively avoided. Here we describe a strategy for the management of Parthenium hysterophorus L. (Asteraceae) in South Africa. P. hysterophorus is an annual herb native to tropical America, which has become invasive in over 30 countries. The strategy sets goals for (1) the prevention of spread to new areas; (2) local eradication of isolated populations; (3) containment in areas where eradication is not possible; and (4) actions to protect assets where containment is no longer an option. We developed both a national strategy to set policy and to monitor progress towards goals at a national level and an implementation plan to set goals and timeframes for their achievement at local levels. It is not clear, at this stage, whether or not the goals of the strategy are achievable because implementation will face many challenges arising from ecological features of the target plant, social and cultural practices that will influence management, inadequate levels of funding and multiple political considerations. Our strategy proposes regular assessment using high-level indicators, a practice that is widely recognised as essential but seldom implemented at a national scale. Because the outcomes are uncertain, it is vital that regular monitoring of outcomes should be instituted from the start, so that both appropriate adjustments can be made to the strategy and lessons for the implementation of similar strategies elsewhere can be derived.
- ItemAssessing the effectiveness of invasive alien plant management in a large fynbos protected area(AOSIS Publishing, 2017) Kraaij, Tineke; Baard, Johan A.; Rikhotso, Diba R.; Cole, Nicholas S.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.Background: Concern has been expressed about the effectiveness of invasive alien plant (IAP) control operations carried out by Working for Water (WfW). South African legislation now also requires reporting on the effectiveness of IAP management interventions. Objectives: We assessed the effectiveness of IAP management practices in a large fynbos protected area, the Garden Route National Park, South Africa. Methods: We undertook field surveys of pre-clearing IAP composition and the quality of treatments applied by WfW during 2012–2015 in 103 management units, covering 4280 ha. We furthermore assessed WfW data for evidence of change in IAP cover after successive treatments, and adherence to industry norms. Results: Despite the development of detailed management plans, implementation was poorly aligned with plans. The quality of many treatments was inadequate, with work done to standard in only 23% of the assessed area. Problems encountered included (1) a complete absence of treatment application despite the payment of contractors (33% of assessed area); (2) treatments not being comprehensive in that select areas (38%), IAP species (11%) or age classes (8%) were untreated; (3) wrong choice of treatment method (9%); and (4) treatments not applied to standard (7%). Accordingly, successive follow-up treatments largely did not reduce the cover of IAPs. Inaccurate (or lack of) infield estimation of IAP cover prior to contract generation resulted in erroneous estimation of effort required and expenditure disparate with WfW norms. Conclusions: We advocate rigorous, compulsory, infield assessment of IAP cover prior to contract allocation and assessment of the quality of treatments applied prior to contractors’ payment. This should improve the efficiency of control operations and enable tracking of both the state of invasions and effectiveness of management.
- ItemAssessing the status of biological control as a management tool for suppression of invasive alien plants in South Africa(AOSIS Publishing, 2017) Zachariades, Costas; Paterson, Iain D.; Strathie, Lorraine W.; Hill, Martin P.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.Background: Biological control of invasive alien plants (IAPs) using introduced natural enemies contributes significantly to sustained, cost-effective management of natural resources in South Africa. The status of, and prospects for, biological control is therefore integral to National Status Reports (NSRs) on Biological Invasions, the first of which is due in 2017. Objectives: Our aim was to evaluate the status of, and prospects for, biological control of IAPs in South Africa. We discuss expansion of biological control and suggest indicators to be used in the upcoming NSR to assess sufficient growth. Method: We used published literature, unpublished work and personal communication to assess the status of biological control of IAPs. We propose indicators based on the targets for biological control that were proposed in the 2014 ‘National Strategy for dealing with biological invasions in South Africa’. To prioritise targets for future efforts, we used published lists of damaging IAPs and assessed the prospects for their biological control. Recommendations for using biological control as a management tool were made after discussion among the authors and with colleagues. Results: Significant control of several Cactaceae, Australian Acacia species and floating aquatic plants, and many other IAPs has been achieved in South Africa since 1913. Recently, biological control has benefited from improved international collaboration, a streamlined application process for the release of new biological control agents (resulting in the approval of 19 agents against 13 IAP species since 2013), and increased funding and capacity. There is still a need to improve implementation and to better integrate biological control with other control methods. In order to maximise benefits from biological control, increased investment is required, particularly in implementation and post-release evaluation, and in targeting new IAPs. Proposed targets for growth between 2017 and 2020 include an increase in financial investment in research by 29%, implementation by 28% and mass-rearing by 68%. Research capacity should increase by 29%, implementation capacity by 63% and mass-rearing capacity by 61%. New research projects should be initiated on 12 new IAP targets, while post-release monitoring efforts should be expanded to another 31 IAPs. Conclusion: Biological control of IAPs has contributed substantially to their management in South Africa, and continues to do so. Further investment in targeted aspects of IAP biological control will increase this contribution.
- ItemAn assessment of climate, weather, and fuel factors influencing a large, destructive wildfire in the Knysna region, South Africa(SpringerOpen, 2018-08-30) Kraaij, Tineke; Baard, Johan A.; Arndt, Jacob; Vhengani, Lufuno; Van Wilgen, Brian W.Background: In June 2017, wildfires burned 15 000 ha around the town of Knysna in the Western Cape, destroying > 800 buildings, > 5000 ha of forest plantations, and claiming the lives of seven people. We examined the factors that contributed to making this one of the worst fires on record in the region. Results: One third of the area that burned was in natural vegetation (mainly fynbos shrublands), and more than half was in plantations of invasive alien (non-native) pine trees, or in natural vegetation invaded by alien trees. We used satellite imagery to assess burn severity in different land cover types by comparing pre- and post-fire images to estimate biomass consumed. We used daily weather data from two weather stations to calculate fire danger and drought indices over 70 years, and compared the fire weather conditions during the 2017 Knysna fires to the long-term weather record. The amount of biomass consumed was significantly higher in plantations of invasive alien trees, and in fynbos invaded by alien trees, than in uninvaded fynbos, providing support for the contention that invasion by alien trees increases the impact and difficulty of control of wildfires. Fire danger indices on the days of the fires were in the top 0.1 to 0.2% of days in the historic record, indicating that fire weather conditions were extreme but not unprecedented. The fires were preceded by a prolonged drought, and 18-month running means for two drought indices were the highest on record. Conclusion: The severity of the fires was exacerbated by very high fire danger conditions, preceded by an unprecedented drought, and further worsened by the conversion of natural fynbos vegetation to plantations, and invasion of vegetation by alien trees. Historical fire suppression also resulted in fuel buildups, further aggravating the problem of fire control, while residential development within and adjacent to fire-prone areas increased the risks faced by residents. Our results support calls to control invasive alien plants, reduce commercial planting of invasive alien trees, strictly regulate development in areas of high fire risk, and maintain awareness of the need for fire-wise practic.
- ItemAn assessment of the evolution, costs and effectiveness of alien plant control operations in Kruger National Park, South Africa(Pensoft Publishers, 2017-06-02) Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Fill, Jennifer M.; Govender, Navashni; Foxcroft, Llewellyn C.; Daehler, C.Alien plants were first recorded in 1937 in the 2 million ha Kruger National Park (KNP, a savanna protected area in South Africa), and attempts to control them began in the mid-1950s. The invasive alien plant control program expanded substantially in the late 1990s, but its overall efficacy has not been determined. We present an assessment of invasive alien plant control operations over several decades in KNP. We based our assessment on available information from a range of control programs funded from various sources, including national public works programs, KNP operational funds, and foreign donor funds. Over ZAR 350 million (~ US$ 27 million) has been spent on control interventions between 1997 and 2016. We found evidence of good progress with the control of several species, notably Opuntia stricta, Sesbania punicea, Lantana camara and several aquatic weeds, often because of effective biological control. On the other hand, we found that over one third (40%) of the funding was spent on species that have subsequently been recognised as being of lower priority, most of which were alien annual weeds. The allocation of funds to non-priority species was sometimes driven by the need to meet additional objectives (such as employment creation), or by perceptions about relative impact in the absence of documented evidence. We also found that management goals were limited to inputs (funds disbursed, employment created, and area treated) rather than to ecological outcomes, and progress was consequently not adequately monitored. At a species level, four out of 36 species were considered to be under complete control, and a further five were under substantial control. Attempts to control five annual species were all considered to be ineffective.
- ItemBiodiversity assessments : origin matters(Public Library of Science, 2018-11-13) Pauchard, Anibal; Meyerson, Laura A.; Bacher, Sven; Blackburn, Tim M.; Brundu, Giuseppe; Cadotte, Marc W.; Courchamp, Franck; Essl, Franz; Genovesi, Piero; Haider, Sylvia; Holmes, Nick D.; Hulme, Philip E.; Jeschke, Jonathan M.; Lockwood, Julie L.; Novoa, Ana; Nunez, Martin A.; Peltzer, Duane A.; Pysek, Petr; Richardson, David M.; Simberloff, Daniel; Smith, Kevin; Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Vila, Montserrat; Wilson, John R. U.; Winter, Marten; Zenni, Rafael D.Recent global efforts in biodiversity accounting, such as those undertaken through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are vital if we are to track conservation progress, ensure that we can address the challenges of global change, and develop powerful and scientifically sound indicators. Schlaepfer  proposes that we should work toward inventories of biodiversity that account for native and non-native species regardless of species origin and ecological context. We strongly disagree with the approach of combining counts of native and non-native species because this will reduce our capacity to detect the effects of non-native species on native biodiversity with potentially devastating consequences. Compelling and abundant evidence demonstrates that some non-native species can become invasive and produce major ecosystem disruptions and even native species extinction. Unfortunately, we still cannot be certain which non-native species will be the most detrimental (e.g., ). Combining native and non-native species together into a single biodiversity index would not only inflate biodiversity estimates and risk promoting the spread of invasive non-native species but would also ignore the fundamental ecological differences between the two groups.
- ItemChallenges in invasive alien plant control in South Africa(Academy of Science of South Africa, 2012) Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Cowling, Richard M.; Marais, Christo; Esler, Karen J.; McConnachie, Matthew; Sharp, DebbieWorking for Water owes much to the community of fynbos ecologists who were instrumental in putting forward an argument to government for its initiation in 1996.2 The 33rd Annual Fynbos Forum (attended by over 250 delegates at Cape St. Francis on 17–19 July 2012) included a plenary workshop on the effectiveness of Working for Water, and discussions on ways for the scientific community to assist in the identification and implementation of improvements. This brief report outlines the issues discussed, including the problems faced by Working for Water, and possible ways for the scientific community to assist in addressing them.
- ItemConfronting the wicked problem of managing biological invasions(Pensoft, 2016) Woodford, Darragh J.; Richardson, David M.; MacIsaac, Hugh J.; Mandrak, Nicholas E.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Wilson, John R. U.; Weyl, Olaf L. F.The Anthropocene Epoch is characterized by novel and increasingly complex dependencies between the environment and human civilization, with many challenges of biodiversity management emerging as wicked problems. Problems arising from the management of biological invasions can be either tame (with simple or obvious solutions) or wicked, where difficulty in appropriately defining the problem can make complete solutions impossible to find. We review four case studies that reflect the main goals in the management of biological invasions – prevention, eradication, and impact reduction – assessing the drivers and extent of wickedness in each. We find that a disconnect between the perception and reality of how wicked a problem is can profoundly influence the likelihood of successful management. For example, managing species introductions can be wicked, but shifting from species-focused to vector-focused risk management can greatly reduce the complexity, making it a tame problem. The scope and scale of the overall management goal will also dictate the wickedness of the problem and the achievability of management solutions (cf. eradication and ecosystem restoration). Finally, managing species that have both positive and negative impacts requires engagement with all stakeholders and scenario-based planning. Effective management of invasions requires either recognizing unavoidable wickedness, or circumventing it by seeking alternative management perspectives.
- ItemContributions to the National Status Report on biological invasions in South Africa(AOSIS Publishing, 2017) Wilson, John R. U.; Gaertner, Mirijam; Richardson, David M.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.South Africa has committed to producing a National Status Report on Biological Invasions by October 2017 and thereafter every three years. This will be the first status report at a national level specifically on biological invasions. As part of soliciting input, a workshop was held in May 2016 that led to this special issue of 19 papers in the journal Bothalia: African Biodiversity and Conservation. This editorial introduces the symposium, discusses the special issue and summarises how each contribution provides an estimate of ‘status’. Papers focus on key pathways, taxa, areas, and evaluations of interventions, specifically the movement of taxa between South Africa and neighbouring countries; the dispersal pathways of amphibians; a review of alien animals; a report on changes in the number and abundance of alien plants; in-depth reviews of the status of invasions for cacti, fishes, fungi and grasses; an assessment of the impact of widespread invasive plants on animals; reviews on invasions in municipalities, protected areas and subAntarctic Islands; assessments of the efficacy of biological control and other control programmes; and recommendations for how to deal with conflict species, to conduct scientific assessments and to improve risk assessments. The papers in this special issue confirm that South Africa is an excellent place to study invasions that can provide insights for understanding and managing invasions in other countries. Negative impacts seem to be largely precipitated by certain taxa (especially plants), whereas invasions by a number of other groups do not, yet, seem to have caused the widespread negative impacts felt in other countries. Although South Africa has effectively managed a few biological invasions (e.g. highly successful biological control of some invasive plants), the key challenge seems to be to establish and maintain a strong link between implementation, monitoring, reporting and planning.
- ItemCoordinated approaches to rehabilitating a river ecosystem invaded by alien plants and fish(Academy of Science of South Africa, 2013-11-27) Impson, N. Dean; Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Weyl, Olaf L. F.Large sums have been spent on controlling invasive alien species in South Africa over the past two decades, but documented accounts of successes are almost non-existent. This brief account describes progress with a coordinated pioneering project to simultaneously clear invasive alien trees and predatory alien fish from a degraded but ecologically important river ecosystem in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Dense infestations of invasive Australian Acacia and Eucalyptus species were cleared over 2 years (2010–2012) from the riparian zone of the lower reaches of the Rondegat River. This clearance was followed by the local eradication of an alien fish, smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu, from the lower reaches of the river in February 2012 and March 2013 using the piscicide rotenone, so that native threatened fish species could re-colonise from the upper reaches of the river. Overall costs of the clearance and eradication amounted to nearly R4.5 million, and early indications are that the native riparian vegetation and fish are recovering well. The project illustrates several aspects of good practice: careful planning; close and enthusiastic collaboration between affected state and private landowners; public participation to address concerns; the simultaneous and coordinated application of mechanical, chemical and biological control of alien plants and chemical control of alien fish; and direction by qualified ecologists. Although it is too early to assess the long-term success, the exercise provides useful lessons for such projects elsewhere, and paves the way for the more widespread use of similar approaches in selected areas that are a priority for conservation.
- ItemDistribution of invasive alien Tithonia (Asteraceae) species in eastern and southern Africa and the socioecological impacts of T. diversifolia in Zambia(South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), 2019-09-25) Witt, Arne B.R.; Shackleton, Ross T.; Beale, Tim; Nunda, Winnie; Van Wilgen, Brian W.Background: Many alien plant species, such as Tithonia diversifolia, T. rotundifolia and T. tubaeformis, have been introduced to areas outside of their natural distribution range to provide benefits, but have subsequently become invasive, threatening biodiversity and agricultural productivity. Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the current distribution and dates of introduction of invasive Tithonia species in eastern and southern Africa and to document the effects of T. diversifolia on rural livelihoods in Zambia. Method: Roadside surveys, and other sources of information, were used to determine the distribution of invasive Tithonia species in eastern and southern Africa. Household interviews were conducted to gauge perceptions and understand the impacts of T. diversifolia on local livelihoods in Zambia’s Copperbelt province. Results: Tithonia diversifolia is widespread in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and parts of Zambia but less so in Zimbabwe. Tithonia rotundifolia was comparatively uncommon in eastern Africa but common in some southern African countries, while T. tubaeformis was invasive in Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and possibly also Zimbabwe. According to the majority of respondents in Zambia, T. diversifolia has negative impacts on native vegetation, mobility or access, water availability, crop yields and animal health. Conclusion: Invasive Tithonia species are widespread and spreading throughout much of Africa. Livelihood and biodiversity costs have not been considered by those actively promoting the use and further dissemination of T. diversifolia. We therefore recommend that detailed cost–benefit studies should be undertaken to support informed decisions on the future management of these species.
- ItemFire ecology -- Cape fynbos biome(Fire management -- Cape Fynbos biome, 2013) Van Wilgen, Brian W.The management of fire-dependent biodiversity hotspots must be based on sound ecological knowledge and a pragmatic approach that accommodates the constraints within which fire managers must operate. South Africa’s fynbos biome (shrubland or heathland vegetation found in the Western Cape of South Africa) is one such hotspot. In this region, the implementation of prescribed burning to conserve biodiversity must take into account the area’s rugged and inaccessible terrain and recurrent wildfires, the presence of fire-adapted invasive alien plants, and the imperatives for ensuring human safety. These constraints limit the potential for prescribed burning to be effective everywhere, and prioritization and trade-offs will be needed to ensure the efficient use of limited funding and management capacity. In such environments, management must be adaptive, based on clearly defined and shared goals, monitoring, and assessment, and should be flexible enough to adjust as new lessons are learned.
- ItemFire management in Mediterranean-climate shrublands : a case study from the Cape fynbos, South Africa(Wiley Online, 2010) Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Forsyth, Gregory G.; De Klerk, Helen; Das, Sonali; Khuluse, Sibusisiwe; Schmitz, PeterSummary: 1. Fire is an important process in Mediterranean-ecosystem shrublands, and prescribed burning is often used to manage these ecosystems. Analyses of past fire regimes are required to interpret biotic responses to fire, as well as to assess the degree to which management interventions have been able to influence the fire regime. 2. We used a spatial data base of fires within 10 protected areas covering >720 000 ha to examine the frequency, seasonality, size and cause of fires over four decades. Our study covered five fire climate zones and a range of mountain fynbos shrubland types. We examined whether regular prescribed burning would be necessary to rejuvenate the vegetation, and also to reduce the incidence and extent of wildfires. 3. Cumulative fire frequency distributions indicated that the probability of fire was not strongly affected by post-fire age, with 50% of the area experiencing a successive fire within 10–13 years after the previous fire in most areas. This suggests that the accumulation of fuel did not limit the occurrence of wildfires, and that regular prescribed burning would not necessarily reduce the risk of wildfires. 4. Inland zones experienced more severe fire weather than coastal zones (∼35% vs. 11–19% of days with high to very high fire danger, respectively). Despite these differences, fire return periods were similar (10–13 years), suggesting that the availability of ignitions, and not fuel or weather, limited the occurrence of wildfires. 5. Despite a policy that promoted prescribed burning, a relatively small area (between 4·6% and 32·4% of the area of all fires) burned in prescribed burns. Seasonal restrictions for safety and ecological reasons, the imperative to integrate planned fires with invasive alien plant treatments and unplanned wildfires have all contributed to the relatively small area that burnt in prescribed burns. 6. Synthesis and applications. Recurrent wildfires, and not prescribed burning, are providing sufficient opportunities for fire-stimulated regeneration in fynbos ecosystems. Because of this, and because burning to reduce fuel loads is unlikely to prevent wildfires, there should be less pressure to conduct prescribed burning. The predicted growth in human populations in all areas is expected to increase the number of ignition opportunities and the frequency of fires, with detrimental consequences for biodiversity conservation and the control of invasive alien trees. Fire frequency should thus be monitored and steps should be taken to protect areas that burn too frequently.
- ItemFire regimes in eastern coastal fynbos : imperatives and thresholds in managing for diversity(AOSIS Publishing, 2013) Kraaij, Tineke; Cowling, Richard M.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.Until recently, fire ecology was poorly understood in the eastern coastal region of the Cape Floral Kingdom (CFK), South Africa. Rainfall in the area is aseasonal and temperatures are milder than in the winter-rainfall and drier inland parts of the CFK, with implications for the management of fire regimes. We synthesised the findings of a research programme focused on informing ecologically sound management of fire in eastern coastal fynbos shrublands and explored potential east–west trends at the scales of study area and CFK in terms of fire return interval (FRI) and fire season. FRIs (8–26 years; 1980–2010) were comparable to those elsewhere in the CFK and appeared to be shorter in the eastern Tsitsikamma than in the western Outeniqua halves of the study area. Proteaceae juvenile periods (4–9 years) and post-fire recruitment success suggested that for biodiversity conservation purposes, FRIs should be ≥ 9 years in eastern coastal fynbos. Collectively, findings on the seasonality of actual fires and the seasonality of fire danger weather, lightning and post-fire proteoid recruitment suggested that fires in eastern coastal fynbos are not limited to any particular season. We articulated these findings into ecological thresholds pertaining to the different elements of the fire regime in eastern coastal fynbos, to guide adaptive management of fire in the Garden Route National Park and elsewhere in the region. Conservation implications: Wildfires are likely to remain dominant in eastern coastal fynbos, whilst large-scale implementation of prescribed burning is unattainable. Fires occurring in any season are not a reason for concern, although other constraints remain: the need for sufficient fire intensity, safety requirements, and integration of fire and invasive alien plant management.
- ItemA guide to a vanishing flora(ASSAf, 2021-03-29) Van Wilgen, Brian W.Renosterveld is a highly endangered vegetation type that once covered over 2 million hectares within the Cape Floristic Region. Today, the estimated 18 000 remaining patches are widely scattered across the landscape, collectively covering less than 4% of the original extent of this once-expansive veld type. Renosterveld differs from the neighbouring and better-known fynbos in that it occurs on nutrient-rich soils derived from shale, as opposed to the nutrient-poor sandstone soils that support fynbos. Fynbos is best known for its tall proteas and showy ericas, as well as reed-like restios. Renosterveld, on the other hand, is more grassy and characterised by shrubs of low to medium height. In the past, and unlike fynbos, renosterveld supported an abundance of large grazing mammals and their accompanying predators. This began to change around 2000 years ago when the Khoekhoen arrived with domesticated livestock whose more selective feeding habits would have differed from those of wildlife, thus impacting on the flora. Large wild mammals were virtually exterminated when European settlers arrived with modern firearms some 300 years ago, and domestic livestock became the dominant grazers. The fate of the renosterveld was finally sealed after World War II, when mechanised farming allowed large tracts of land to be converted to crops such as wheat and canola. Whether the original renosterveld was a shrubby grassland or a grassy shrubland is a topic that ecologists debate today, as the changing grazing pressures and humaninfluenced fire regimes would have affected the proportional contribution of these two important components of the vegetation. Better understanding of this issue would be important for managing this vegetation type correctly, and this book provides some insights into these intriguing questions. Nonetheless, forming an acceptably robust grasp of the functioning and dynamics of such a fractured ecosystem is akin to visualising the image of a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle from four remaining pieces.
- ItemIndicators for monitoring biological invasions at a national level(British Ecological Society, 2018) Wilson, John R. U.; Faulkner, Katelyn T.; Rahlao, Sebataolo J.; Richardson, David M.; Zengeya, Tsungai A.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.1. A major challenge for the management of biological invasions is to ensure that data and information from basic inventories and ecological research are used alongside data from the monitoring and evaluation of interventions to trigger and improve policy and management responses. To address this issue, South Africa has committed to report on the status of biological invasions and their management every 3 years. 2. We propose a framework of indicators for reporting on biological invasions at a country level; assess the feasibility of the indicators using South Africa as a case study; and outline steps needed for indicator development. 3. We argue that a national status report on biological invasions should explicitly consider indicators for pathways, species, and sites, and should report on interventions in terms of inputs, outputs, and outcomes. 4. We propose 20 indicators based on data currently available, as well as existing international policy initiatives. For each indicator, we have developed a factsheet that includes different hierarchical metrics (considering data availability) and provide suggestions on assigning confidence levels. We also combine these indicators into four high-level indicators to facilitate broader reporting and describe how forecasted indicators based on the concept of invasion debt could assist with scenario planning. 5. We found that many of the data required for these indicators are already available in South Africa, but they have been poorly collated to date. However, data for the indicators of most direct value to policy and planning—those dealing with the impact of biological invasions and the outcome of interventions—are scarce. 6. Policy implications. The framework of indicators developed here, for what we believe is the first ever national-level report on the status of biological invasions and their management, will facilitate the inclusion of biological invasions in environmental reporting at national and international levels. By identifying knowledge gaps, a status report will also focus efforts on determining the size of a country’s invasion debt and what can be done to reduce it.
- ItemInvasion science for society : a decade of contributions from the Centre for Invasion Biology(Academy of Science of South Africa, 2014) Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Davies, Sarah J.; Richardson, David M.Biological invasions are a growing problem worldwide. In 2004, the South African Department of Science and Technology, through the National Research Foundation, established a Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, with the primary goal of providing scientific understanding and building capacity in the field of biological invasions. South Africa is an extraordinary natural laboratory for the study of biological invasions, and the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) has capitalised on this situation. During its first decade, the C·I·B generated over 800 publications, and produced almost 200 graduates at honours, master’s and doctoral levels. The C·I·B has therefore made a considerable contribution to building human capacity in the field of biological invasions. Substantial advances have been made in all aspects of invasion science, which is not limited to biology and ecology, but includes history, sociology, economics and management. The knowledge generated by the C·I·B has been used to inform policy and improve management practices at national and local levels. The C·I·B has emerged as a leading institute in the global field of invasion biology, with several unique features that differentiate it from similar research institutes elsewhere. These features include a broad research focus that embraces environmental, social and economic facets, leading to a diverse research programme that has produced many integrated products; an extensive network of researchers with diverse interests, spread over a wide geographical range; and the production of policy- and management-relevant research products arising from the engaged nature of research conducted by the C∙I∙B.
- ItemA landscape-scale assessment of the long-term integrated control of an invasive shrub in South Africa(Springer, 2009-01) Esler, Karen J.; Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Re Roller, Kerry S.; Wood, Alan R.; Van der Merwe, Johannes H.The control of invasive alien plants often involves the integration two or more approaches, including mechanical clearing, the application of herbicides, burning, and biological control. More than one species of invasive plant can threaten the same area, which necessitates prioritization in the allocation of scarce resources to support the control of different species. This paper describes the integrated control of the invasive shrub Hakea sericea over four decades in South Africa. The species is widespread across an area of approximately 800 × 200 km, and occurs mainly in rugged, inaccessible and fire-prone mountain areas. The species is serotinous, and produces copious amounts of seed that are wind dispersed after fires. We present a brief history of the control measures which included a combination of felling and burning, augmented by biological control. We used data from two surveys, 22 years apart, to assess changes in distribution and density of the species. The assessment suggested that the overall distribution of the species was reduced by 64%, from ~530,000 to ~190,000 ha between 1979 and 2001. The species either decreased in density, or was eliminated from 492,113 ha, while it increased in density, or colonised 107,192 ha. We conclude that initial programs of mechanical clearing were responsible for reducing the density and extent of infestations, and biological control was largely responsible for the failure of the species to re-colonize cleared sites, or to spread to new areas following unplanned wildfires. We propose that a significant portion of the resources used for clearing Hakea in the past can be reallocated to mechanical control efforts against other invasive species (such as alien pines) for which effective biological control options are not available, provided that sufficient resources are allocated to ensure the widespread and effective implementation of all biological control agents to maintain the advances reported on here. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009.
- ItemNational-scale strategic approaches for managing introduced plants : insights from Australian acacias in South Africa(Blackwell Publishing, 2011) Van Wilgen, Brian W.; Dyer, Colin; Hoffmann, John H.; Ivey, Philip; Le Maitre, David C.; Moore, Joslin L.; Richardson, David M.; Rouget, Mathieu; Wannenburgh, Andrew; Wilson, John R. U.Aim: A range of approaches and philosophies underpin national-level strategies for managing invasive alien plants. This study presents a strategy for the management of taxa that both have value and do harm. Location: South Africa. Methods: Insights were derived from examining Australian Acacia species in South Africa (c. 70 species introduced, mostly > 150 years ago; some have commercial and other values; 14 species are invasive, causing substantial ecological and economic damage). We consider options for combining available tactics and management practices. We defined (1) categories of species based on invaded area (a surrogate for impact) and the value of benefits generated and (2) management regions based on habitat suitability and degree of invasion. For each category and region, we identified strategic goals and proposed the combinations of management practices to move the system in the desired direction. Results: We identified six strategic goals that in combination would apply to eight species categories. We further identified 14 management practices that could be strategically combined to achieve these goals for each category in five discrete regions. When used in appropriate combinations, the prospect of achieving the strategic goal will be maximized. As the outcomes of management cannot be accurately predicted, management must be adaptive, requiring continuous monitoring and assessment, and realignment of goals if necessary. Main conclusions: Invasive Australian Acacia species in South Africa continue to spread and cause undesirable impacts, despite a considerable investment into management. This is because the various practices have historically been uncoordinated in what can be best described as a strategy of hope. Our proposed strategy offers the best possible chance of achieving goals, and it is thefirst to address invasive alien species that have both positive value and negative impacts.