Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Uncertainty in research about key invasion characteristics limits the evaluation of exotic perennial grasses in natural systems in New South Wales, Australia.

Abstract

Exotic perennial grasses (EPGs) pose a significant risk to native communities globally. With over 2,200 species in Australia, understanding which characteristics enable high threat invasions, and comparing between functionally similar EPGs, can help prioritise species management. We developed a framework of risk and used the literature to rank 21 EPGs considered a threat to plant communities in New South Wales, while also evaluating the reliability of information currently available. Characteristics were scored within five broad categories that distinguish invasiveness: Arrival, Establishment, Persistence, Impact and Distribution. These included aspects of reproductive biology, competitive ability and environmental tolerance. The risk assessment was effective in assessing key characteristics of invasion. EPGs with an economic benefit (trade-off species) were more likely to have reliable research and frequently ranked as high-risk invaders in natural habitats due to the overlap of characteristics important in invasion with those considered important in agriculture. Lack of formal scientific research hindered assessment for some species, and some traits had been poorly assessed in the literature. High uncertainty was associated with key characteristics for Establishment, Persistence and Impact. Uncertainty in key characteristics revealed a need for improved integration of less formal research validated by more formal scientific research. This may lead to more informed decisions in the management of EPGs in native habitats and assist in early control of EPGs not yet assessed.