Here to stay. Recent advances and perspectives about Acacia invasion in Mediterranean areas.
Context: Invasive alien plants (IAPs) strongly alter ecosystems reducing biodiversity, modifying ecosystem services and increasing negative impacts at social and economic level. Among invasive taxa, Acacia is a highly problematic genus worldwide. In fact, almost 500 papers have been published on several aspects of Acacia invasions for the last 25 years. Aims: We aim at reviewing the current knowledge on the consequences of the invasion by Acacia genus in Mediterranean ecosystems. We also collect and propose different approaches for the management and recovery of invaded areas and suggest future perspectives on Acacia research. Methods: We compile, summarise and discuss recent findings on physicochemical, ecological, microbiological and socioeconomic aspects of invasion related to Australian acacias (Acacia dealbata, Acacia longifolia, Acacia mearnsii, Acacia saligna and Acacia melanoxylon) focusing on Mediterranean areas. Results: Acacia invasion generally entails soil physicochemical alterations and changes in microbial function and structure. Consequences such as the decreased biodiversity, altered ecosystem structure, larger seed banks dominated by invasive species, new biotrophic relationships or alterations in water availability and fire regimes suggest that acacias are locally creating novel ecosystems. Conclusions: Forecasting invasions, modelling and managing ecosystems dominated by acacias are challenging tasks that should be addressed in the future, since climatic conditions and intensification in land uses are increasing the likelihood of Acacia invasions in Mediterranean areas. Unsuccessful management actions suggest that restoration should be meticulously monitored, but the magnitude of invasion or the inconsistency of economic investment indicate that eradication is often unfeasible. Alternatively, novel integrative and cost-effective solutions including the collaboration of society, politicians and stakeholders are necessary to prevent new introductions and achieve sustainable control of acacias. There is a growing interest in applied research on the valorisation or novel uses for acacias and their residues that result in economic benefits.