Assessment of post-burn removal methods for Acacia saligna in Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, with consideration of indigenous plant recovery
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The Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) of South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot threatened by the impacts of habitat transformation and invasive alien species. Cape Flats Sand Fynbos (CFSF) is a critically endangered vegetation type occurring within the GCFR, and its largest remaining fragment is the focus of a large-scale invasive plant control and biodiversity restoration project. Acacia saligna is a highly problematic invasive in CFSF and the main target of the control. To mitigate damage caused by this species, stands are removed and burned, which stimulates both the large invasive seed-bank and the indigenous seed-bank in the soil. Although there are no clear methods on how to manage the re-invasion at this stage without damaging indigenous plant recovery, three post-burn removal methods have the potential to be effective: (1) cutting the Acacia saplings below the coppicing point, (2) cutting the saplings and applying herbicide to the stumps, and (3) foliar herbicide spray. The aims of this studywere to (i) find the most effective post-burn A. saligna control treatment, (ii) find the treatment that causes the least harm to indigenous plant recovery, (iii) determine the most cost-effective treatment, and (iv) establish which treatment is the most suitable for large-scale use. Cutting below the coppicing point of the A. saligna provided the most effective removal and was also the least damaging to indigenous vegetation recovery. The foliar spray treatment, however, saved the most time and costs. The best method is therefore dependent on the project goals, scale, and density of the A. saligna invasion. These results may be applicable to other types of fynbos and to other fire-stimulated invasive Acacia species.