Acacia mangium Willd: benefits and threats associated with its increasing use around the world.
Background: Acacia mangium, a fast-growing tree native to parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, has been cultivated outside its native environment and introduced into humid tropical lowland regions of Asia, South America and Africa over the last few decades. It is a multipurpose tree used in agroforestry, forestry and for restoration of degraded lands. It is also highly invasive in many regions where it has been introduced outside its native range. This paper reviews evidence of its obvious benefits and its negative impacts on biodiversity. Methods: A literature review on Australian acacias and especially on A. mangium was undertaken to highlight both benefits and threats associated with their increasing worldwide use outside their native ranges. Results: Through N2 fixed from the atmosphere, A. mangium improves soil fertility, especially by increasing N status and soil C accretion when introduced to N-limited areas; it thus has the potential to restore nutrient cycling in degraded systems. No studies have, however, been done to assess the effectiveness of A. mangium in restoring biodiversity of degraded lands. Most Australian acacias have traits that facilitate invasiveness, and 23 species have been recorded as invasive to date. A. mangium has been reported as invasive in Asia, Indonesia, Pacific Islands, Indian Ocean Islands, southern Africa and Brazil. Research on other invasive Australian acacias in several parts of the world has elucidated the types of impacts that are likely in different types of ecosystems and key options for mitigating impacts. Conclusions: A. mangium has the potential to restore nutrient cycling in degraded systems, but is highly invasive wherever it is planted. Many parts of the world have a large invasion debt for this species. Experience with other invasive acacias around the world suggests a suite of interventions that could be used to reduce invasions and mitigate impacts. Careful risk assessments should be undertaken prior to any new plantings of this species.