, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 1979-1995
Date: 25 Jan 2008

Assessing the risks of plant invasions arising from collections in tropical botanical gardens

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Abstract

Tropical botanical gardens have played an important role in the distribution, naturalisation and spread of non-native plants worldwide. Appropriate guidance relating to risk assessments of established botanical garden collections is often scarce. This paper uses the Amani Botanical Garden (ABG), Tanzania, as a case study to highlight appropriate methods to assess the risks posed by existing and future collections in tropical botanical gardens. Key considerations included field assessments of species status using accepted definitions of naturalisation, spread and invasion, distinguishing between intentionally and unintentionally introduced species, identifying taxonomic patterns in invasion status, assessing patterns in habitats colonised, and determining how knowledge of invasion elsewhere might be useful in forecasting risk. Out of the 214 alien plant species surviving from the original plantings in the early 20th century, 35 had only regenerated, 38 had locally naturalised while 16 had spread widely in the botanical garden. A further 16 species with unclear introduction records in the garden were also found to be naturalised. A greater proportion of introduced species were potentially invasive than might be expected from previous analyses of global floras. Overall, just over half of all naturalised and spreading species were also observed in forest fragments and edges. The proportion of species that had been recorded elsewhere as naturalised/invasive was significantly related to their status in ABG, with 94% of spreading species and 79% of naturalising species being recorded as naturalised or invasive elsewhere, compared to 57% of species that were only regenerating and 49% of species only surviving. Recommendations for further risk assessments of botanical garden collections are discussed.