Biological Invasions

, 12:211 | Cite as

A landscape-scale assessment of the long-term integrated control of an invasive shrub in South Africa

  • Karen J. EslerEmail author
  • Brian W. van Wilgen
  • Kerry S. te Roller
  • Alan R. Wood
  • Johannes H. van der Merwe
Original Paper


The control of invasive alien plants often involves the integration two or more approaches, including mechanical clearing, the application of herbicides, burning, and biological control. More than one species of invasive plant can threaten the same area, which necessitates prioritization in the allocation of scarce resources to support the control of different species. This paper describes the integrated control of the invasive shrub Hakea sericea over four decades in South Africa. The species is widespread across an area of approximately 800 × 200 km, and occurs mainly in rugged, inaccessible and fire-prone mountain areas. The species is serotinous, and produces copious amounts of seed that are wind dispersed after fires. We present a brief history of the control measures which included a combination of felling and burning, augmented by biological control. We used data from two surveys, 22 years apart, to assess changes in distribution and density of the species. The assessment suggested that the overall distribution of the species was reduced by 64%, from ~530,000 to ~190,000 ha between 1979 and 2001. The species either decreased in density, or was eliminated from 492,113 ha, while it increased in density, or colonised 107,192 ha. We conclude that initial programs of mechanical clearing were responsible for reducing the density and extent of infestations, and biological control was largely responsible for the failure of the species to re-colonize cleared sites, or to spread to new areas following unplanned wildfires. We propose that a significant portion of the resources used for clearing Hakea in the past can be reallocated to mechanical control efforts against other invasive species (such as alien pines) for which effective biological control options are not available, provided that sufficient resources are allocated to ensure the widespread and effective implementation of all biological control agents to maintain the advances reported on here.


Biological control Mechanical control Fire Fynbos Hakea sericea Invasion management Pines 



We thank the South African National Research Foundation (K. J. Esler, GUN 2053516 and through the Centre for Invasion Biology), and the Working for Water Programme for funding, and Dave Richardson and John Hoffman for useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and Tony Rebelo for advice regarding the use of Protea Atlas Data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen J. Esler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian W. van Wilgen
    • 2
  • Kerry S. te Roller
    • 1
  • Alan R. Wood
    • 3
  • Johannes H. van der Merwe
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Conservation Ecology and EntomologyUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre for Invasion BiologyCSIR Natural Resources and the EnvironmentStellenboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.ARC-Plant Protection Research InstituteStellenboschSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of Geology, Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa

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