Plant invasions in arid areas: special problems and solutions: a South African perspective
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Management of invasive alien plants in arid areas is complicated by the cryptic and stochastic nature of the invasion process, the low density of researchers, extension officers and farmers in these areas, the complex, delayed and sometimes, indirect, effects of alien invasive plants on these ecosystems, and by high and shifting values placed on goods and services derived from invasive alien plant species. Fluctuating vegetation cover together with convergent adaptations for dispersal and facilitation enables some desert aliens to invade intact vegetation. Invasive plants in arid areas are not all arid-adapted: the most problematic species globally are phreatic, wetland or oasis specialists that can colonise remote wetlands and springs through a combination of winddispersed seeds and vegetative reproduction. Their success is often linked to disturbance and facilitated by agricultural activities including water extraction, cropping and livestock management. Invasive alien plants in arid region wetlands have an impact on forage, water resources and biodiversity in these key resource areas, that is disproportionately great relative to the area they occupy. Management of arid region aliens could include pre-introduction biocontrol planning that makes it possible to use aliens while reducing invasion risks. An alternative is to replace the aliens with extralimital indigenous plants that can supply the rangeland services perceived to be absent from arid environments—but such interventions may carry even greater risks.
- RESEARCH: Milton S