Potential Futures of Biological Invasions in South Africa
van Wilgen, B.W.
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Biological invasions are having a moderately negative impact on human livelihoods and the environment in South Africa, but the situation is worsening. Predicting future trends is fraught with many assumptions, so this chapter takes an outcome-orientated approach. We start by envisaging four scenarios for how biological invasions might look like 200–2000 years from now: (1) “Collapse of Civilisation, but no return to Eden”, there is no advanced human civilisation left on Earth and current biological invasions play out in full; (2) “New Pangea”, a combination of the unregulated and rapid movement of species around the world and other global change drivers leads to the biotic homogenisation of areas that were previously distinct biogeographic regions such that the concept of biological invasions no longer has meaning; (3) “Preserve or Use”, while parts of the Earth continue to be utilised, some areas are actively managed and native biodiversity and biogeographic distributions are maintained; and (4) “Conservation Earth”, a highly advanced civilisation restores the Earth to a state prior to the human-mediated movement of organisms (i.e. biological invasions are reversed). Based on various horizon-scanning exercises and our own deliberations, we discuss how technological, socio-political, trade, global change, and ecological-evolutionary processes in South Africa might affect biological invasions by 2070 (i.e. when people born today will be the key decision-makers). Finally, we explore how planning, regulation, funding, public support, and research might affect invasions by 2025 (i.e. over the next planning/management/political cycle). There are many things we can neither predict nor influence, but, in part based on the insights from this book, we highlight some actions that could enable the next generation to decide what they want their future to be. A greater focus on appropriate and innovative training opportunities would increase the efficacy and responsiveness of the management of biological invasions. A shift in regulatory approach from “identify and direct” to a variety of flexible, inclusive, and sophisticated approaches underpinned by evidence might provide more societally acceptable means of addressing the multitude of competing interests. Greater co-operation on biosecurity and implementation with neighbouring countries would assist prevention measures. Finally, monitoring and research aimed at documenting, tracking, and predicting invasions and their impacts would assist with efforts to identify priorities and help us to understand the consequence of different management and policy decisions. While this was a sobering exercise, it was also empowering. If South Africans can agree on a long-term trajectory for how they want to deal with biological invasions, the potential consequences of decision-making over the short-term will become much clearer.