Plant invasions research in Latin America: fast track to a more focused agenda.
While many developed countries have invested heavily in research on plant invasions over the last 50 years, the immense region of Latin America has made little progress. Recognising this, a group of scientists working on plant invasions in Latin America met in Chile in late 2010 to develop a research agenda for the region based on lessons learned elsewhere. Our three main findings are as follows. (1) Globalisation is inevitable, but the resultant plant introductions can be slowed or prevented by effective quarantine and early intervention. Development of spatially explicit inventories, research on the invasion process and weed risk assessments can help prioritise and streamline action. (2) Eradication has limited application for plants and control is expensive and requires strict prioritisation and careful planning and evaluation. (3) Accepting the concept of novel ecosystems, new combinations of native and introduced species that no longer depend on human intervention, may help optimise invasive species management. Our vision of novel ecosystem management is through actions that: (a) maintain as much native biodiversity and ecosystem functionality as possible, (b) minimise management intervention to invasives with known impact, and (c) maximise the area of intervention. We propose the creation of a Latin American Invasive Plants Network to help focus the new research agenda for member countries. The network would coordinate research and training and establish funding priorities, develop and strengthen tools to share knowledge, and raise awareness at the community, governmental and intergovernmental levels about the social, economic and environmental costs of plant invasions.