Seed banks of invasive Australian Acacia species in South Africa: Role in invasiveness and options for management
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Despite impressive efforts at clearing stands of invasive Australian Acacia species in South Africa, insufficient attention has been given to understanding the role of seed banks in the invasiveness and long-term persistence of populations. We review information on seeds of these species, considering seed production, seed rain, and the dynamics of seeds in three layers: leaf litter, and upper and lower seed banks in the soil. Many factors affect the accumulation and susceptibility to destruction of seed banks and thus the opportunities for intervention to reduce seed numbers for each of these components. Reduction of seed banks is crucial for the overall success of the multi-million dollar management initiatives against these species. Classical biological control of buds, flower and young pods has reduced the seed production of many Australian acacias in South Africa. Fire can be applied to reduce seed numbers in the leaf litter and upper seed bank in some cases, although there are serious problems associated with high fire intensities in dense acacia stands. Other options, e.g. soil inversion and solarisation, exist to exercise limited reduction of seed numbers in some situations. There is little prospect of meaningful reduction of seed numbers in the lower seed bank. Preventing the accumulation of seed banks by limiting seed production through biological control is by far the most effective means, and in almost all cases the only practical means, of reducing seed numbers. This must be an integral part of management strategies. Several invasive Australian acacias are already under effective biological control, and further work to identify additional potential agents for all the currently invasive species and potentially invasive alien species is the top priority for improving the efficiency of management programmes.
- RESEARCH: Richardson D