The Role of Environmental Factors in Promoting and Limiting Biological Invasions in South Africa
van Wilgen, B.W.
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This chapter provides an overview of the researchers and research initiatives relevant to invasion science in South Africa over the past 130 years, profiling some of the more recent personalities, particularly those who are today regarded as international leaders in the field. A number of key points arise from this review. Since 1913, South Africa has been one of a few countries that have investigated and implemented alien plant biological control on a large scale, and is regarded as a leader in this field. South Africa was also prominent in the conceptualisation and execution of the international SCOPE project on the ecology of biological invasions in the 1980s, during which South African scientists established themselves as valuable contributors to the field. The development of invasion science benefitted from a deliberate strategy to promote multi-organisational, interdisciplinary research in the 1980s. Since 1995, the Working for Water programme has provided funding for research and a host of practical questions that required research solutions. Finally, the establishment of a national centre of excellence with a focus on biological invasions has made a considerable contribution to building human capacity in the field, resulting in advances in all aspects of invasion science—primarily in terms of biology and ecology, but also in history, sociology, economics and management. South Africa has punched well above its weight in developing the field of invasion science, possibly because of the remarkable biodiversity that provided a rich template on which to carry out research, and a small, well-connected research community that was encouraged to operate in a collaborative manner.