Impacts of invasive plants on animal diversity in South Africa : a synthesis

Clusella-Trullas, Susana ; Garcia, Raquel A. (2017)

CITATION: Clusella-Trullas, S. & Garcia, R. A. 2017. Impacts of invasive plants on animal diversity in South Africa : a synthesis. Bothalia - African Biodiversity and Conservation, 47(2):a2166, doi:10.4102/abc.v47i2.2166.

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Background: Increasing numbers of invasive alien plant (IAP) species are establishing around the globe and can have negative effects on resident animal species function and diversity. These impacts depend on a variety of factors, including the extent of invasion, the region and the taxonomic group affected. These context dependencies make extrapolations of IAP impacts on resident biota from region to region a substantial challenge. Objectives: Here, we synthesised data from studies that have examined the effects of IAPs on animal diversity in South Africa. Our focus is on ectothermic organisms (reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates). Method: We sourced relevant articles using keywords relating to (1) the effects of IAPs on species diversity (abundance, richness and composition), (2) the IAP and (3) the native ectotherm. We extracted the taxonomic and spatial coverage of IAPs and affected native species and assessed the extent of information given on potential mechanisms driving IAP impacts. Results: Across the 42 studies, IAPs had a decreasing or neutral effect on native animal abundance and richness and significantly changed species composition. This review highlighted the paucity of studies and the research deficits in taxonomic and geographic coverage and in the mechanisms underlying IAP impacts on ectotherms. Conclusion: By assessing the status of knowledge regarding the impacts of IAPs on resident animal species in South Africa, this study identifies information gaps and research priorities at the country level with a view to informing monitoring and conservation efforts, such as alien plant removal and control programmes, and ensuring that endemic terrestrial animal diversity is maintained.

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