Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1607–1616 | Cite as

Use of a weed risk assessment for the Mediterranean region of Central Italy to prevent loss of functionality and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems

  • Roberto CrostiEmail author
  • Carmela Cascone
  • Salvatore Cipollaro
Original Paper


The capacity to predict invasiveness of plant species is important for the conservation and management of natural habitats, especially within agro-ecosystems. Many factors increase the creation of newly available niches in this type of anthropogenic manipulated ecosystem. Consequently, the presence and establishment of invasive alien species with the potential to spread and cause harm, or constrain elements of semi-natural habitat or vegetation remnants, may increase. The invasiveness of weedy germplasm may be accelerated by the presence of cultivated species that are able to escape from fields also through crop movement or on livestock. The future use of agricultural land for widespread and intensive cultivation of biofuel crops for energy production increases the need for a pre-entry screening tool both for species that are new to the Italian cropping system and for the management of existing weedy species. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of adapting the Australian and New Zealand Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) to the geographic, climatic and weed management context of Italy. We evaluated the performance of the adapted WRA on several alien plant species of known invasiveness in Mediterranean Central Italy. WRA score results were compared with a priori independent opinions of botanists with field experience in the evaluated region. The assessment procedure correctly identified 93% of invasive species and 75% of non-invasive species. Further evaluation was needed for 20% of the tested species and was conducted through a secondary screening. Throughout the whole process, only one (5%) of the investigated species could not be assessed. The results of the Receiver Operating Characteristic analysis, the consistency of the outcomes with those found in other WRA studies, the Chi Square testing categories and the high correlation between the a priori and WRA score corroborated the predictive accuracy of the WRA for determining invasive from non-invasive species. This confirmed the effectiveness of the screening process and an assessment was subsequently carried out on proposed biofuel species detecting some potential invaders. The WRA can thus be used to assess the introduction of new cropping systems and for weed management.


Biofuel European Union IAS Invasive species Italy Mediterranean basin Weeds management WRA Australian weed risk assessment 



We thank Rod Randall and Paul Pheloung for helping us to improve our understanding of the AWRAS; Doria Gordon and Bob Dixon for sharing with us their knowledge concerning WRAs; Pietro Bianco, Maurizio Cutini, Alessandro Sauli for volunteering species evaluation; we also thank Antonella Arcangeli, Vanna Forconi Piero Genovesi and Claudio Piccini of ISPRA, Sarah Brunel of EPPO, Ricardo Labrada of FAO and Walter Testa of CFS. We are particularly grateful to Phil Ladd and Giuseppe Brundu who contributed with helpful comments on the manuscript. We also wish to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for providing valuable feedback.


  1. Anderson NO, Galatowitsch SM, Gomez N (2006) Selection strategies to reduce invasive potential in introduced plants. Euphytica 148:203–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barbier E, Knowler D (2006) Commercialization decisions and the economics of introduction. Euphytica 148:151–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barney JN, DiTomaso JM (2008) Nonnative species and bioenergy: are we cultivating the next invader? Bioscience 58(1):64–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bganz (2007) Weed risk assessment procedure and management software. Australian Botanic Gardens Weed NetworkGoogle Scholar
  5. Blasi C (1994) Fitoclimatologia del Lazio. Regione Lazio Assessorato Agricoltura, RomeGoogle Scholar
  6. Caley P, Kuhnert PM (2006) Application and evaluation of classification trees for screening unwanted plants. Aust Ecol 31:647–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caley P, Lonsdale WM, Pheloung P (2006) Quantifying uncertainty in predicting invasive species. Biol Invasions 8:277–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Celesti-Grapow L, Alessandrini A, Arrigoni PV, Banfi E, Bernardo, Bovio M, Brundu G, Cagiotti MR, Camarda I, Carli E, Conti F, Fascetti S, Galasso G, Gubellini L, La Valva V, Lucchese F, Marchiori S, Mazzola P, Peccenini S, Pretto F, Poldini L, Prosser F, Siniscalco C, Villani MC, Viegi L, Wilhalm T, Blasi C (2009) The inventory of the non-native flora of Italy. Plant Biosyst 143 (in press)Google Scholar
  9. Chytrý M, Maskell LC, Pino J, Pyšek P, Vilà M, Font X, Smart SM (2008) Habitat invasions by alien plants: a quantitative comparison among Mediterranean, subcontinental and oceanic regions of Europe. J Appl Ecol 45:448–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. COM (2006) Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010—and beyond sustaining ecosystem services for human well–being. Commission of the European Communities, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  11. Conti F, Abbate G, Alessandrini A, Blasi C (eds) (2005) Annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora. Palombi Editore, RomaGoogle Scholar
  12. Crosti R, Forconi V (2006) Espansione delle colture da biomassa sul territorio italiano: incognite legate all’introduzione di specie aliene potenzialmente invasive. In Colture a scopo energetico ed ambiente. Atti Convegno APAT, Roma, pp 49–58 Google Scholar
  13. Crosti R, Dixon KW, Ladd PG, Yates C (2007) Changes in the structure and species dominance in vegetation over 60 years in an urban bushland remnant. Pac Conserv Biol 13(3):158–170Google Scholar
  14. Daehler CC (2006) Invasibility of tropical islands by introduced plants: partitioning the influence of isolation and propagule pressure. Preslia 78:389–404Google Scholar
  15. Daehler CC, Carino DA (1999) Threats of invasive plants to the conservation of biodiversity. In: Chou CH, Waller GR, Reinhardt C (eds) Biodiversity and allelopathy. Academia Sinica Press, Taipei, pp 21–27Google Scholar
  16. Daehler CC, Denslow JS, Ansari S, Kuo H (2004) A risk assessment system for screening out invasive pest plants from Hawaii and other Pacific islands. Conserv Biol 18:360–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DiTomaso JM, Healy EA (2006) Weeds of California and other western states. University of California, DANR. Publication no. 3488, 1808 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. EC (2003) Thematic report on alien invasive species. Second report of the European Community to the conference of the parties of the convention on biological diversityGoogle Scholar
  19. EEA (2007) Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010: proposal for a first set of indicators to monitor progress in Europe. EEA Technical report No. 11/2007Google Scholar
  20. FAO (2005) Procedures for weeds risk assessment. Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO, Rome, p 16Google Scholar
  21. FAO (2006) Procedures for post-border weed risk management. Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO, Rome, p 21Google Scholar
  22. Gassó N, Basnou C, Vilà M (2009) Predicting plant invaders in the Mediterranean through a weed risk assessment system. Biol Invasion (published online)Google Scholar
  23. Genovesi P, Shine C (2004) European strategy on invasive alien species. Nature and environment, vol 137. Council of Europe publishing, Strasbourg 67 ppGoogle Scholar
  24. Gliessman SR (2000) Agroecology. Ecological processes in sustainable agriculture. Lewis Publisher, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  25. Gordon DR, Thomas KP (1998) Florida’s invasion by nonindigenous plants: history, screening and regulation. In: Simberloff D, Schmitz DC, Brown TC (eds) Strangers in paradise: impact and management of non-indigenous species in Florida. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Gordon DR, Onderdonk DA, Fox AM, Stocker RK (2008a) Consistent accuracy of the Australian weed risk assessment system across varied geographies. Divers Distrib 14:234–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gordon DR, Onderdonk DA, Fox AM, Stocker RK, Gantz C (2008b) Predicting invasive plants in Florida using the Australian weed risk assessment. Invasive Plant Sci Manag 1:178–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Greimler J, Stuessy TF, Swenson U, Baeza CM, Matthei O (2002) Plant invasions on an oceanic Archipelago. Biol Invasions 4:73–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Groves RH (1999) Meeting challenges posed by ‘sleeper’ weeds. Plant health in the new global trading environment: managing exotic insects, weeds and pathogens. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia and National Office of Animal and Plant Health, Canberra, pp 31–42Google Scholar
  30. HB 294 (2006) National post-border weed risk management protocol. Standards Australia. International Ltd., Standards New ZealandAuckland, CRC Australian Weed Management, Sydney, Adelaide, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  31. Heywood V, Brunel S (2008) Code of conduct on horticulture and invasive alien plants. Council of Europe Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats Standing Committee 28th meeting Strasbourg, 24–27 November 2008Google Scholar
  32. Hobbs RJ, Cramer VA (2007) Old field dynamics: regional and local differences, and lessons for ecology and restoration. In: Cramer V, Hobbs RJ (eds) Old fields dynamics and restoration of abandoned farmland society for ecological restoration. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  33. Hobbs RJ, Humphries SE (1995) An integrated approach to the ecology and management of plant invasions. Conserv Biol 9:761–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hulme PE (2005) Nursery crime: agriculture as victim and perpetrator in the spread of invasive species. In: Crop science and technology. British Crop Protection Council, Farnham, pp 733–740Google Scholar
  35. Hulme PE (2007) Biological invasions in Europe: drivers, pressures, states, impacts and responses. In: Hester R, Harrison RM (eds) Biodiversity under threat. Issues in environmental science and technology, vol 25. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, pp 56–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hulme PE, Bacher S, Kenis M, Klotz S, Kühn I, Minchin D, Nentwig W, Olenin S, Panov V, Pergi J, Pysek P, Roques A, Sol D, Solarz W, Vila M (2008) Grasping at the routes of biological invasions: a framework for integrating pathways into policy. J Appl Ecol 45:403–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kato H, Hata K, Yamamoto H, Yoshioka T (2006) Effectiveness of the weed risk assessment system for the Bonin Islands. In: Koike F, Clout MN, Kawamichi M, De Poorter M, Iwatsuki K (eds) Assessment and control of biological invasion risk. Shoukadoh Book Seller, Kyoto, pp 65–72Google Scholar
  38. Kitajima K, Fox AM, Sato T, Nagamatsu D (2006) Cultivar selection prior to introduction may increase invasiveness: evidence from Ardisia crenata. Biol Invasions 8:1471–1482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Krivánek M, Pyšek P (2006) Predicting invasions by woody species in a temperate zone: a test of three risk assessment schemes in the Czech Republic (Central Europe). Divers Distrib 12:319–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lloret F, Medail F, Brundu G, Camarda I, Moragues E, Rita J, Lambdon P, Hulme PE (2005) Species attributes and invasion success by alien plants on Mediterranean islands. J Ecol 93:512–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Low T, Booth C (2007) The weedy truth about biofuels. Invasive Species Council, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  42. Maillet J, Zaragoza C (2003) Some considerations about weed risk assessment in France and Spain. In: Madrid RL (ed) Expert consultation on weed risk assessment. FAO ReportGoogle Scholar
  43. Marshall EJP (2004) Agricultural landscapes: field margin habitats and their interaction with crop production. J Crop Improv 12:365–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nishida T, Yamashita N, Asai M, Kurokawa S, Enomoto T, Pheloung PC, Groves RH (2008) Developing a pre-entry weed risk assessment system for use in Japan. Biol Invasion (published on line)Google Scholar
  45. Pheloung PC (1995) Determining the weed potential of new plant introductions to Australia. A report to the standing committee on agriculture and resource management, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  46. Pheloung PC, Williams PA, Halloy SR (1999) A weed risk assessment model for use as a biosecurity tool evaluating plant introductions. J Environ Manag 57:239–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pimentel D, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2005) Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecol Econ 52(3):273–288Google Scholar
  48. Raghu S, Anderson RC, Daehler CC, Davis AS, Wiedenmann RN, Simberlof D, Mack RN (2006) Adding biofuels to the invasive species fire? Science 313(5794):1742CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Reichard SH, Hamilton CW (1997) Predicting invasions of woody plants introduced into North America. Conserv Biol 11:193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reichard SH, White P (2001) Horticulture as a pathway of invasive plant introductions in the United States. Bioscience 51:103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rejmánek M (2000) Invasive plants: approaches and predictions. Aust Ecol 25:497–506Google Scholar
  52. Richardson DM, Pyšek P (2006) Plant invasion: merging the concepts of species invasiveness and community invasibility. Prog Phys Geogr 30(3):409–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sala OE, Chapin FS, Armesto JJ, Berlow E, Bloomfield J, Dirzo R, Huber-Sanwald E, Huenneke LF, Jackson RB, Kinzig A, Leemans R, Lodge DM, Mooney HA, Oesterheld M, LeRoy Poff N, Sykes MT, Walker BH, Walker M, Wall DH (2000) Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287:1770–1774Google Scholar
  54. Scalera R (2009) How much is Europe spending on invasive alien species. Biol Invasion (published online)Google Scholar
  55. Traveset A, Brundu G, Carta L, Mprezetou I, Lambdon P, Manca M, Médail F, Moragues E, Rodríguez-Pérez J, Siamantziouras ASD, Suehs CM, Troumbis AY, Vilà M, Hulme PE (2008) Consistent performance of invasive plant species within and among islands of the Mediterranean basin. Biol Invasions 10:847–858CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van Wilgen BW, Richardson DM (1985) The effects of alien shrub invasions on vegetation structure and fire behaviour in South African fynbos shrublands: a simulated study. J Appl Ecol 22:955–966CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Viegi L (2001) Investigations on some reproductive features of invasive alien plants in Italy. In: Brundu G et al (eds) Plant invasion. Backhuys Publishers, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  58. Weber E, Gut D (2004) Assessing the risk of potentially invasive plant species in central Europe. J Nat Conserv 12:171–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Williamson MH (1996) Biological invasions. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Crosti
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carmela Cascone
    • 1
  • Salvatore Cipollaro
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento Difesa della Natura, Servizio Uso Sostenibile delle Risorse NaturaliISPRARomeItaly

Personalised recommendations