A rapid survey of the invasive plant species in western Angola.
Angola is one of the most neglected African countries in terms of botanical research, in respect of both native and naturalized species. We conducted a rapid assessment of invasive plant species in western Angola during August 2014. In thirteen primary vegetation types, we recorded populations of 44 naturalized plant species, nineteen of which are conclusively invasive (spreading far from introduction sites). Dense invasive populations of Chromolaena odorata, Inga vera and Opuntia stricta pose the greatest environmental and economic threats. Some species with known taxonomic and/or biogeographic uncertainties (e.g. Chromolaena odorata and Ageratina adenophora) or which lacked key characteristics for identification such as flowers during our survey (e.g. Eucalyptus spp.) were subjected to DNA barcoding for comparisons with available genetic data from other studies. This approach allowed us to confirm the identity of taxonomically challenging taxa such as Inga vera, Opuntia stricta and Prosopis chilensis, to conclusively differentiate Chromolaena odorata from Ageratina adenophora, and identify the subspecific identity of Acacia saligna. Canonical correspondence analysis was used to assess the presence and abundance of invasive plant species with respect to the major abiotic factors and vegetation types. Three fairly distinct groups of species emerge from this analysis: (i) species of dry lowland habitats (Calotropis gigantea, Leucaena leucocephala and Opuntia stricta); (ii) species of relatively wet habitats at mid elevations (Ageratum conyzoides, Bidens pilosa, Cardiospermum grandiflorum, Chromolaena odorata, Solanum mauritianum and Tithonia diversifolia); and (iii) upland species (Ageratina adenophora, Galinsoga parviflora and Tagetes minuta). Several invasive species that are widespread in other tropical and subtropical African countries are currently either missing (e.g. many Australian Acacia species, Azolla filiculoides, Broussonetia papyrifera, Clidemia hirta, Parthenium hysterophorus, Rubus rosaefolius, Salvinia molesta), have only very localized populations in Angola (e.g. Lantana camara, Prosopis chilensis) or exist only as planted individuals (e.g. Acacia mearnsii and A. saligna subsp. saligna).