A landscape-scale assessment of the long-term integrated control of an invasive shrub in South Africa

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.
The original publication is available at http://link.springer.com/journal/10530
Invasive plants -- Integrated control -- South Africa, Invasive plants -- Biological control -- South Africa, Invasive plants -- Mechanical control -- South Africa, Hakea sericea
Esler, K.J. et. al. 2009. A landscape-scale assessment of the long-term integrated control of an invasive shrub in South Africa. Biological Invasions, 12(1):211-218, dio:10.1007/s10530-009-9443-2.