Global environmental and socio-economic impacts of selected alien grasses as a basis for ranking threats to South Africa

Nkuna, Khensani V. ; Visser, Vernon ; Wilson, John R. U. ; Kumschick, Sabrina (2018)

CITATION: Nkuna, K. V., et al. 2018. Global environmental and socio-economic impacts of selected alien grasses as a basis for ranking threats to South Africa. NeoBiota, 41:19-65, doi:10.3897/neobiota.41.26599.

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Decisions to allocate management resources should be underpinned by estimates of the impacts of biological invasions that are comparable across species and locations. For the same reason, it is important to assess what type of impacts are likely to occur where, and if such patterns can be generalised. In this paper, we aim to understand factors shaping patterns in the type and magnitude of impacts of a subset of alien grasses. We used the Generic Impact Scoring System (GISS) to review and quantify published impact records of 58 grass species that are alien to South Africa and to at least one other biogeographical realm. Based on the GISS scores, we investigated how impact magnitudes varied across habitats, regions and impact mechanisms using multiple regression. We found impact records for 48 species. Cortaderia selloana had the highest overall impact score, although in contrast to five other species (Glyceria maxima, Nassella trichotoma, Phalaris aquatica, Polypogon monspeliensis, and Sorghum halepense) it did not score the highest possible impact score for any specific impact mechanism. Consistent with other studies, we found that the most frequent environmental impact was through competition with native plant species (with 75% of cases). Socio-economic impacts were recorded more often and tended to be greater in magnitude than environmental impacts, with impacts recorded particularly often on agricultural and animal production (57% and 51% of cases respectively). There was variation across different regions and habitats in impact magnitude, but the differences were not statistically significant. In conclusion, alien grasses present in South Africa have caused a wide range of negative impacts across most habitats and regions of the world. Reviewing impacts from around the world has provided important information for the management of alien grasses in South Africa, and, we believe, is an important component of management prioritisation processes in general.

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