Aliens in the nursery: assessing the attitudes of nursery managers to invasive species regulations.
The horticultural industry is recognised as a major pathway for the introduction and spread of invasive alien plants (IAPs). The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA) of 1983 (Act No. 43 of 1983) listed and categorised invasive species with an aim to curb their spread. The more recently enacted Alien and Invasive Species Regulations under South Africa's National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) are intended, in part, to improve controls on the horticultural industry's role in the spread of IAPs. In order to assess, and enhance, the likely effectiveness of NEMBA, it is important to build an understanding of stakeholders' awareness and attitudes towards the control of IAPs and associated regulatory policies. A two-pronged approach - involving nursery manager interviews (n=30) and plant stock audit assessments (n=41) - was used to gauge the awareness, compliance and attitudes of nursery managers towards both the CARA and NEMBA invasive species regulations. Less than ten percent of audited nurseries were fully compliant with the NEMBA regulations, and over 50% were stocking IAPs that have been regulated for at least 13 years under CARA. This is despite high levels of awareness (70%) about the CARA regulations reported in the interviews. The majority (73.5%) of IAP species stocked in nurseries were NEMBA category 1b invaders such as Nerium oleander and Canna indica. These are widespread and well-established invaders that require compulsory control under NEMBA. Half of the managers were not aware that the NEMBA regulations had been promulgated, but most respondents nevertheless reported being enthusiastic about compliance. Several factors were quoted as constraints on compliance by the industry. These included a perceived lack of enforcement, weak communication from government, and the lack of inclusion of the industry in the regulatory process. Suggested interventions that could enhance the impact of IAP regulations will involve improving the user-friendliness of the regulations, and supplementing the current top-down approach to regulation with an inclusive partner-centred approach.