Parthenium hysterophorus: a tale of global invasion over two centuries, spread and prevention measures.
Ever since parthenium weed (Parthenium hysterophorus L.) first left its native range more than two centuries ago, this noxious herb has now invaded 46 countries and territories. The weed has expanded its range from a couple of islands in 18th Century through 11 minor and eight major introductions around the world. Segmented regression analyses confirmed introductions and revealed that the weed has spread fastest in developing countries, especially after the 1950s in Asia and Africa. A review of historical records, research papers and reports suggests that while border traffic (36%) and unchecked imports (seeds 16%, other commodities 17%) have resulted in the majority of international introductions, local spread has been achieved through multiple pathways, including roads and vehicles, by water and wind, through contaminated seed feed lots and floral bouquets. The high proportion of adjacent counties (51%) and oversea islands (5%) over the unknown origins (32%) or directly from the native range (12%) reveal a steady and predictable international spread pattern. Prevention of spread by management was first practised in Australia, then followed by other five countries. Containment barriers were set up, legislation on biosecurity imposed, and management plans based on early detection and eradication were executed; and these measures have been effective. Awareness within international research groups is raising, however, insufficient coordination between invaded countries has occurred to date, with policies yet to be formalised and executed to prevent the spread and impact of this weed.