Risk assessment, eradication, and biological control: global efforts to limit Australian acacia invasions.
Aim: Many Australian Acacia species have been planted around the world, some are highly valued, some are invasive, and some are both highly valued and invasive. We review global efforts to minimize the risk and limit the impact of invasions in this widely used plant group. Location: Global. Methods: Using information from literature sources, knowledge and experience of the authors, and the responses from a questionnaire sent to experts around the world, we reviewed: (1) a generalized life cycle of Australian acacias and how to control each life stage, (2) different management approaches and (3) what is required to help limit or prevent invasions. Results: Relatively few Australian acacias have been introduced in large numbers, but all species with a long and extensive history of planting have become invasive somewhere. Australian acacias, as a group, have a high risk of becoming invasive and causing significant impacts as determined by existing assessment schemes. Moreover, in most situations, long-lived seed banks mean it is very difficult to control established infestations. Control has focused almost exclusively on widespread invaders, and eradication has rarely been attempted. Classical biological control is being used in South Africa with increasing success. Main conclusions: A greater emphasis on pro-active rather than reactive management is required given the difficulties managing established invasions of Australian acacias. Adverse effects of proposed new introductions can be minimized by conducting detailed risk assessments in advance, planning for on-going monitoring and management, and ensuring resources are in place for long-term mitigation. Benign alternatives (e.g. sterile hybrids) could be developed to replace existing utilized taxa. Eradication should be set as a management goal more often to reduce the invasion debt. Introducing classical biological control agents that have a successful track-record in South Africa to other regions and identifying new agents (notably vegetative feeders) can help mitigate existing widespread invasions. Trans-boundary sharing of information will assist efforts to limit future invasions, in particular, management strategies need to be better evaluated, monitored, published and publicised so that global best-practice procedures can be developed.