Long term monitoring of recruitment dynamics determines eradication feasibility for an introduced coastal weed.
Bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. rotundata) is a Weed of National Significance in Australia and has impacted a significant portion of the eastern coastline. Its discovery in Western Australia was, therefore, a cause for concern. Assessment and control of the isolated and well-defined population began in 2012. To assess the feasibility of eradication in Western Australia as a management outcome for bitou bush, we applied a rigorous data-driven quantification and prediction process to the control program. Between 2012 and 2018 we surveyed over 253 ha of land and removed 1766 bitou bush plants. Approximately 97 person-days were spent over the six years of survey. We measured the seed bank viability for five years starting in 2013, with the 2017 survey results indicating a decline of mean viable seeds/m2 from 39.3 ± 11.4 to 5.7 ± 2.2. In 2018 we found only ten plants and no newly recruited seedlings in the population. No spread to other areas has been recorded. Soil core studies indicate that the soil seed bank is unlikely to persist beyond eight years. Eradication of the population in Western Australia, defined as five years without plants being detected, therefore remains a realistic management goal. The information generated from the documentation of this eradication program provides invaluable insight for weed eradication attempts more generally: novel detection methods can be effective in making surveys more efficient, all survey methods are not entirely accurate and large plants can escape detection, bitou bush seeds persist in the soil but become effectively undetectable at low densities, and migration of seed was unquantifiable, possibly compromising delimitation. Continued monitoring of the Western Australian population will determine how much of a risk these factors represent to eradication as the outcome of this management program.