Invasive Australian Acacia seed banks: size and relationship with stem diameter in the presence of gall-forming biological control agents

Strydom, Matthys ; Veldtman, Ruan ; Ngwenya, Mzabalazo Z. ; Esler, Karen J. (2017)

CITATION: Strydom, M., et al. 2017. Invasive Australian Acacia seed banks: Size and relationship with stem diameter in the presence of gall-forming biological control agents. PLoS ONE, 12(8):e0181763, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181763.

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Australian Acacia are invasive in many parts of the world. Despite significant mechanical and biological efforts to control their invasion and spread, soil-stored seed banks prevent their effective and sustained removal. In response South Africa has had a strong focus on employing seed reducing biological control agents to deal with Australian Acacia invasion, a programme that is considered as being successful. To provide a predictive understanding for their management, seed banks of four invasive Australian acacia species (Acacia longifolia, A. mearnsii, A. pycnantha and A. saligna) were studied in the Western Cape of South Africa. Across six to seven sites for each species, seed bank sizes were estimated from dense, monospecific stands by collecting 30 litter and soil samples. Average estimated seed bank size was large (1017 to 17261 seed m⁻²) as was annual input into the seed bank, suggesting that these seed banks are not residual but are replenished in size annually. A clear relationship between seed bank size and stem diameter was established indicating that mechanical clearing should be conducted shortly after fire-stimulated recruitment events or within old populations when seed banks are small. In dense, monospecific stands seed-feeding biological control agents are not effective in reducing seed bank size.

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