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Lessons from successful plant eradications in Galapagos: commitment is crucial

In dealing with weeds, firm resolution is necessary. (I Ching, hexagram Kuai “Resoluteness”. >1000 BC. Wilhelm/Baynes translation.)

Abstract

We analyse introduced plant eradication projects in Galapagos. 8 (38 %) of 21 initiated projects have succeeded. Evaluation of project progress, feasibility and costs suggests that for <US$100,000 (2015 prices) another 12 projects could achieve eradication within 5 years. This contrasts with the analysis of the same programme by Gardener et al. (Restor Ecol 18:20–29, 2010), which concluded that 87 % of projects failed. The difference arises because Gardener et al. (2010) wrongly included 15 plant populations which either had not been completely evaluated, or had been evaluated as potential eradication targets but excluded as not feasible with available resources (i.e. they were not eradication projects), while they omitted six further projects, of which two had already achieved eradication. Of the projects which they labelled as “failed”, two have also since achieved eradication, while five others are still in progress with eradication as their stated objective. They also abandoned six high-feasibility projects that were showing promising results. They placed the programme in the context of the “novel ecosystem” paradigm, which views much ecosystem restoration as futile, especially invasive species management. However, the Galapagos programme was designed to address small populations of incipient invasives, where eradication is more a tool to prevent the future impacts of new invaders than a tool for restoration. We show that eradication of plants in this context is achievable when a simple prior feasibility assessment is made.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for the eradication programme was provided by Monsanto Corp., the United Nations Foundation, and the GEF Project ECU/00/G31 “Control of Invasive Species in the Galapagos Archipelago”. Wilson Cabrera, Karl Campbell, Pilar Díaz, Heinke Jäger, Gonzalo Rivas and Aníbal Sanmiguel kindly provided updates on the status of projects or costs. We thank Rachel Atkinson, David Duffy, Mark Gardener, Fred Kraus, Dane Panetta, John Parkes, Jorge-Luis Rentería, Alan Saunders, Dan Simberloff and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on drafts.

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Buddenhagen, C.E., Tye, A. Lessons from successful plant eradications in Galapagos: commitment is crucial. Biol Invasions 17, 2893–2912 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-015-0919-y

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Keywords

  • Feasibility
  • Incipient invaders
  • Prevention
  • Novel ecosystems