The bottom line: impacts of alien plant invasions in protected areas
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Phrases like “invasive species pose significant threats to biodiversity. . .” are often used to justify studying and managing biological invasions. Most biologists agree that this is true and quantitative studies support this assertion. Protected areas are the foundation of conservation initiatives in many parts of the world, and are an essential component of an integrated approach to conserving biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services. The invasion of alien plants constitutes a substantial and growing threat to the ability of protected areas to provide this service. A large body of literature describes a range of impacts, but this has not been assessed within the context of protected areas. We do not aim to review the state of knowledge of impacts of invasive plants; rather, we collate examples of work that has been carried out in protected areas to identify important patterns, trends and generalities. We also discuss the outcomes of various studies that, while not necessarily undertaken in protected areas, are likely to become important for protected areas in the future. We discuss the range of impacts under five broad headings: (i) species and communities; (ii) ecosystem properties; (iii) biogeochemistry and ecosystem dynamics; (iv) ecosystem services; and (v) economic impacts.