The success of invasive species eradication depends on a variety of factors, including those that initially facilitated the invasion, as well as removal and post-removal protocols. Two factors that appear to influence invasion by, and eradication of, the Neotropical shrub Lantana camara (L.), in southern Indian deciduous forests, are rainfall and removal method. However, their role in influencing eradication success is yet to be quantified, and remains unclear. We conducted an experiment to clarify how rainfall (high vs. low) and removal method (cutting vs. uprooting Lantana) influence re-invasion by Lantana, and native plant recovery. Rainfall influenced both eradication effort and outcomes—drier forest had lower starting levels of invader biomass, requiring less initial eradication effort, as well as lower subsequent Lantana re-invasion (from seed and rootstock) whereas wetter forest typically had greater starting levels of invader biomass, requiring considerably greater initial eradication effort, and greater Lantana re-invasion. However, wetter forest also showed greater native tree and forb recovery. Therefore, the availability of funds, local environmental gradients, and restoration priorities should inform the selection of restoration sites. With regard to removal method, uprooting combined with weeding of germinating Lantana, particularly after the rainy season, minimized overall re-invasion. Therefore, uprooting, followed by regular weeding of germinating Lantana and secondary invaders, is crucial to long-term Lantana eradication success.
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We thank Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Asian Elephant Conservation Fund) for funding this Project, and Tamil Nadu Forest Department for permits to carry out field research in MTR. We also appreciate the assistance of K. Maadan, B. Maadan, Kumar, Bomma, R. Gangadhar, Mohan, Vaishnavi Ramesh, and Suneha Jagannathan in field methods.
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