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Model invasions and the development of national concerns over invasive introduced trees: insights from South African history

Abstract

This article examines how invasions within a discrete geographic, cultural, and ecological context disproportionately shaped awareness of invasions in other places. Such “model invasions” have been valuable for catalyzing national and international interest in biological invasion since the 1980s. Specifically, this article traces how scientific and public perspectives of invasive introduced trees evolved in South Africa during the twentieth century. It argues that concerns about the impact of invasive introduced trees first developed in the Mediterranean-climate region of the southwestern Cape Province during the 1940s and 1950s before emerging elsewhere in South Africa during the 1970s and early 1980s. Though there has been a nation-wide convergence in scientific and public views of invasive trees since the 1980s, there are still stark geographic and cultural knowledge divergences that hinder the effectiveness of contemporary invasive tree management efforts. This study suggests that geographical knowledge imbalances between regions should not be overlooked when historicizing or planning environmental management schemes at national scales.

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Notes

  1. This paper often uses the term fynbos, but prior to the 1960s and 1970s it was more frequently called the “Cape flora.” Botanists believed that the Cape flora included renosterveld and fynbos but not succulent Karoo or forest thickets.

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Acknowledgments

BMB was supported financially by the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney. This paper was greatly improved by valuable criticism from Dave Richardson and two anonymous reviewers; any mistakes or changes are entirely my own. I benefited from discussions with participants during the Tree Invasions Workshop held in Bariloche, Argentina, September 3–5, 2012. I thank Brian van Wilgen, Marcel Rejmánek, and Frederick J. Kruger for their comments on the manuscript. Lance Van Sittert offered valuable insights on a visit to Cape Town in March 2013.

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Correspondence to Brett M. Bennett.

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Bennett, B.M. Model invasions and the development of national concerns over invasive introduced trees: insights from South African history. Biol Invasions 16, 499–512 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-013-0601-1

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Keywords

  • Citizen science
  • Environmental history
  • Fynbos
  • South Africa
  • Tree invasions