Linking research to management:Restoring fynbos riparian vegetation following alien plant invasion
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Following global trends, invasive alien plants are becoming an increasingly large problem in South Africa where growing evidence links invasive alien plant transformation to declines in ecosystem integrity and services. Working for Water (WfW), with its combined aims to enhance ecological integrity, water security and social development, has been in operation since 1995. WfW has worked under the assumption that its focus ecosystems, mostly riparian, would “self repair” once the main stressor (dense stands of invasive alien trees) was removed. This assumption has been largely untested until now, and is the centre of our research on riparian vegetation management and ecosystem repair in alien plant-invaded landscapes in the Fynbos Biome. We asked 1) are the current alien-clearing practices achieving the ecosystem repair goals set by WfW to restore indigenous riparian vegetation structure, diversity and function? and 2) what are realistic restoration goals for these different situations? In tackling these questions, the aim was to identify best-practice techniques to ensure recovery after alien clearing and to produce guidelines and tools to improve management of these systems.