Beyond fecundity control: which weeds are most containable?

Published online
18 Apr 2012
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Panetta, F. D. & Cacho, O. J.
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Eradication is often the preferred strategy in the management of new weed invasions, but recent research has shown that the circumstances under which eradication can be achieved are highly constrained. Containment is a component of an eradication strategy and also a management objective in its own right. Just as for eradication, containment of a weed invasion should be attempted only if it is considered feasible. However, very little guidance exists for the assessment of containment feasibility for weeds. Numerous factors have been proposed as influencing feasibility of containment, but those that relate to the potential for management of dispersal pathways and timely detection of new foci of infestation appear to be critical. Theory suggests that the rate of spread is largely driven by long-distance dispersal (LDD). However, LDD is generally unpredictable and often occurs for species that do not appear to be adapted for it. Furthermore, many (if not most) LDD events fail to give rise to new infestations. As the probability of colonisation is related to the numbers of propagules immigrating ('propagule pressure') at a point in the landscape, dispersal pathways that move relatively large numbers of propagules simultaneously and/or repeatedly should most enhance weed spread. It is these pathways whose potential for management has the greatest bearing upon containment feasibility. A key impediment to containment is undetected spread; this need not occur through LDD and is more likely to occur through dispersal to lesser distances. Synthesis and applications. Feasibility of containment should be viewed in terms of the effort required to reduce weed spread rate, as well as the effectiveness of relevant management actions. Where dispersal vectors are not readily manageable and the probability of detection via structured and/or unstructured surveillance is low, a much greater reliance upon fecundity control will be needed to contain a weed. A combination of empirical and theoretical approaches should be used to develop and refine estimates of containment feasibility. Such estimates will aid decision-making with regard to whether to attempt to reduce weed spread and assist in prioritisation of different weeds for containment.

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