Human Ecology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 113–127 | Cite as

Assessing the Effects of Invasive Alien Species on Rural Livelihoods: Case Examples and a Framework from South Africa

  • C. M. Shackleton
  • D. McGarry
  • S. Fourie
  • J. Gambiza
  • S. E. Shackleton
  • C. Fabricius


The detrimental impacts of invasive alien species (IAS) on ecosystem goods and services and local and regional economies are well documented. However, the use of IAS by rural communities is little understood, and rarely factored into IAS control programmes. Understanding the use of IAS by rural communities and factoring these into cost-benefit models is complex, depending upon a range of local-level attributes such as the time since invasion, abundance, and local-level costs and benefits. This paper reports on two case studies examining the role of IAS in rural livelihoods in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. In both cases, rural communities made widespread consumptive use of the IAS and generally would prefer higher densities, except in certain key localities. Several households traded in IAS products to generate supplementary income. We present a conceptual framework to guide interpretation of these and future case studies, considering attributes such as time since invasion, the competitiveness of the species, and the relative costs and benefits.

Key words

Acacia mearnsii benefits costs livelihoods Opuntia ficus-indica temporal framework vulnerability 



We are grateful to the communities of Tidbury and Catha for their willingness to host the research team and share their knowledge and perceptions so openly. Thanks are due to the South African Biodiversity Institute for funding this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. M. Shackleton
    • 1
  • D. McGarry
    • 1
  • S. Fourie
    • 1
  • J. Gambiza
    • 1
  • S. E. Shackleton
    • 1
  • C. Fabricius
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ScienceRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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