Threats to Paradise? Plant Invasions in Protected Areas of the Western Indian Ocean Islands.
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The islands of the Western Indian Ocean are well known for their unique biodiversity. However, much of the native habitat has been destroyed and the remainder is threatened by invasive alien species. In this review we assessed the different protected area systems, synthesised the history of invasive alien plants and actions against them, and compared contrasting approaches in habitat management across the different island groups. Of the total terrestrial area of the Western Indian Ocean Islands, a third is under formal protection (defined as all six IUCN categories of protected areas), with the proportion of protected areas and conservation status differing substantially between the islands. The awareness of the problems related to protected areas and specific invasive alien plant control actions, and which are supported by official government strategic documents, are further developed in Mauritius-Rodrigues, La Re´union, and Seychelles, but are still to be developed for the Comoros archipelago. We discuss the different approaches to management across the islands, the varying habitat types, fragmentation and degree of invasion. Invaded habitats are being managed by a range of approaches, including restoration, re-creation or inclusion as a novel ecosystem. We conclude by suggesting improvements in the protected area system in the Western Indian Ocean Islands, including priority actions that are necessary to prevent further invasion and control of invasive alien species already in the region.