Van Wilgen B


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 42
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    Genetic insights into the globally invasive and taxonomically problematic tree genus Prosopis
    (2020) Castillo, M.L.; Schaffner, U.; van Wilgen, B.W.; Montaño, N.M.; Bustamante, R.O.; Cosacov, A.; Mathese, M.J.; Le Roux, J.J.
    Accurate taxonomic identification of alien species is crucial to detect new incursions, prevent or reduce the arrival of new invaders and implement management options such as biological control. Globally, the taxonomy of non-native Prosopis species is problematic due to misidentification and extensive hybridization. We performed a genetic analysis on several Prosopis species, and their putative hybrids, including both native and non-native populations, with a special focus on Prosopis invasions in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania). We aimed to clarify the taxonomic placement of non-native populations and to infer the introduction histories of Prosopis in Eastern Africa. DNA sequencing data from nuclear and chloroplast markers showed high homology (almost 100%) between most species analysed. Analyses based on seven nuclear microsatellites confirmed weak population genetic structure among Prosopis species. Hybrids and polyploid individuals were recorded in both native and non-native populations. Invasive genotypes of P. juliflora in Kenya and Ethiopia could have a similar native Mexican origin, while Tanzanian genotypes likely are from a different source. Native Peruvian Prosopis pallida genotypes showed high similarity with non-invasive genotypes from Kenya. Levels of introduced genetic diversity, relative to native populations, suggest that multiple introductions of P. juliflora and P. pallida occurred to Eastern Africa. Polyploidy may explain the successful invasion of P. juliflora in Eastern Africa. The polyploid Prosopis juliflora was highly differentiated from the rest of the (diploid) species within the genus. The lack of genetic differentiation between most diploid species in their native ranges supports the notion that hybridization between allopatric species may occur frequently when they are co-introduced into non-native areas. For regulatory purposes, we propose to treat diploid Prosopis taxa from the Americas as a single taxonomic unit in non-native ranges.
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    A reconstruction of the recent fire regimes of Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi, using remote sensing
    (2021) Nieman, W.A.; van Wilgen, B.W.; Leslie, A.J.
    Background Fire is an important process that shapes the structure and functioning of African savanna ecosystems, and managers of savanna protected areas use fire to achieve ecosystem goals. Developing appropriate fire management policies should be based on an understanding of the determinants, features, and effects of prevailing fire regimes, but this information is rarely available. In this study, we report on the use of remote sensing to develop a spatially explicit dataset on past fire regimes in Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi, between 2001 and 2019. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) images were used to evaluate the recent fire regime for two distinct vegetation types in Majete Wildlife Reserve, namely savanna and miombo. Additionally, a comparison was made between MODIS and Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) images by separately evaluating selected aspects of the fire regime between 2012 and 2019. Results Mean fire return intervals were four and six years for miombo and savanna vegetation, respectively, but the distribution of fire return intervals was skewed, with a large proportion of the area burning annually or biennially, and a smaller proportion experiencing much longer fire return intervals. Variation in inter-annual rainfall also resulted in longer fire return intervals during cycles of below-average rainfall. Fires were concentrated in the hot-dry season despite a management intent to restrict burning to the cool-dry season. Mean fire intensities were generally low, but many individual fires had intensities of 14 to 18 times higher than the mean, especially in the hot-dry season. The VIIRS sensors detected many fires that were overlooked by the MODIS sensors, as images were collected at a finer scale. Conclusions Remote sensing has provided a useful basis for reconstructing the recent fire regime of Majete Wildlife Reserve, and has highlighted a current mismatch between intended fire management goals and actual trends. Managers should re-evaluate fire policies based on our findings, setting clearly defined targets for the different vegetation types and introducing flexibility to accommodate natural variation in rainfall cycles. Local evidence of the links between fires and ecological outcomes will require further research to improve fire planning.
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    Ecological restoration of ecosystems degraded by invasive alien plants in South African Fynbos: is spontaneous succession a viable strategy?
    (2020) Holmes, P.M.; Esler, K.J.; van Wilgen, B.W.; Richardson, D.M.
    Ecological restoration is a global imperative to reverse widespread habitat loss and degradation, including by invasive alien plants. In South Africa’s Core Cape Subregion, alien tree invasions are widespread and their control continues to be a major undertaking. As funding is limited, active restoration interventions are rarely implemented and the focus is on invader removal – the assumption being that ecosystems will self-repair. This paper reviews research findings from the past three decades to assess in which situations spontaneous succession is a viable strategy for restoring alien-invaded ecosystems. We found that ecosystems can self-repair, provided that key biotic and/or abiotic thresholds have not yet been crossed. Self-repair has been observed in many cases where dense invader stands with short residence times have been cleared and where diverse native plant growth forms survive, either in the above-ground vegetation or in soil seed banks. However, several factors influence this generalisation, including the identity of the invader, the ecosystem type, and the efficacy of alien control. Thresholds are crossed sooner with invasions of alien Acacia and Eucalyptus species than those of Hakea and Pinus species, resulting in lower potential for spontaneous recovery. Lowland fynbos ecosystems are less resilient to invasion, and have a lower capacity for self-repair, than mountain fynbos ecosystems. Poorly implemented alien plant control measures can result in a resurgence of the invader to the detriment of native species recovery. We outline some management principles for optimising spontaneous succession potential and integrating alien control and restoration interventions.
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    Uniting botanical science and art
    (2020) van Wilgen, B.W.
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    Quantifying the social and economic benefits of the biological control of invasive alien plants in natural ecosystems
    (2020) van Wilgen, B.W.; Raghu, S.; Sheppard, A.W.; Schaffner, U.
    Invasive alien plants reduce ecosystem service delivery, resulting in environmental, economic and social costs. Here we review the returns on investment from biological control of alien plants that invade natural ecosystems. Quantifying the economic benefits of biological control requires estimates of the reductions in ecosystem goods and services arising from invasion. It also requires post-release monitoring to assess whether biological control can restore them, and conversion of these estimates to monetary values, which has seldom been done. Past studies, mainly from Australia and South Africa, indicate that biological control delivers positive and substantial returns on investment, with benefit:cost ratios ranging from 8:1 to over 3000:1. Recent studies are rare, but they confirm that successful biological control delivers attractive returns on investment, which increase over time as the value of avoided impacts accumulates.