A proposed classification of invasive alien plant species in South Africa: Towards prioritising species and areas for management action

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South African Journal of Science

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University of Cape Town

Many invasive alien plant species in South Africa are already well-established and cause substantial damage, while scores of others are at the early stages of invasion (only recently introduced and/or entering a phase of rapid population growth). Management programmes must target well-established invaders, but must also give appropriate attention to emerging problems. Protocols for objectively prioritizing species in the two groups for management action are lacking. To this end, we describe the objective derivation of two lists of invasive alien plants in South Africa, using available quantitative data and expert knowledge on current patterns of distribution and abundance, life-history traits, and (for emerging invaders) estimates of potential habitat. ‘Major invaders’ are those invasive alien species that are well-established, and which already have a substantial impact on natural and semi-natural ecosystems. ‘Emerging invaders’ currently have less influence, but have attributes and potentially suitable habitat that could result in increased range and consequences in the next few decades. We describe the derivation of lists that contain 117 major invaders (categorized into groups based on geographical range and abundance) and 84 emerging invaders (categorized into groups based on current propagule-pool size and potentially invasible habitat). The main lists, and groupings within them, provide a useful means for prioritizing species for a range of management interventions at national, regional and local scales