Priority threat management of non-native plants to maintain ecosystem integrity across heterogeneous landscapes.
Invasive non-native plants have negatively impacted on biodiversity and ecosystem functions world-wide. Because of the large number of species, their wide distributions and varying degrees of impact, we need a more effective method for prioritizing control strategies for cost-effective investment across heterogeneous landscapes. Here, we develop a prioritization framework that synthesizes scientific data, elicits knowledge from experts and stakeholders to identify control strategies, and appraises the cost-effectiveness of strategies. Our objective was to identify the most cost-effective strategies for reducing the total area dominated by high-impact non-native plants in the Lake Eyre Basin (LEB). We use a case study of the ∼120 million ha Lake Eyre Basin that comprises some of the most distinctive Australian landscapes, including Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. More than 240 non-native plant species are recorded in the Lake Eyre Basin, with many predicted to spread, but there are insufficient resources to control all species. Lake Eyre Basin experts identified 12 strategies to control, contain or eradicate non-native species over the next 50 years. The total cost of the proposed Lake Eyre Basin strategies was estimated at AU$1.7 billion, an average of AU$34 million annually. Implementation of these strategies is estimated to reduce non-native plant dominance by 17 million ha - there would be a 32% reduction in the likely area dominated by non-native plants within 50 years if these strategies were implemented. The three most cost-effective strategies were controlling Parkinsonia aculeata, Ziziphus mauritiana and Prosopis spp. These three strategies combined were estimated to cost only 0.01% of total cost of all the strategies, but would provide 20% of the total benefits. Over 50 years, cost-effective spending of AU$2.3 million could eradicate all non-native plant species from the only threatened ecological community within the Lake Eyre Basin, the Great Artesian Basin discharge springs. Synthesis and applications. Our framework, based on a case study of the ∼120 million ha Lake Eyre Basin in Australia, provides a rationale for financially efficient investment in non-native plant management and reveals combinations of strategies that are optimal for different budgets. It also highlights knowledge gaps and incidental findings that could improve effective management of non-native plants, for example addressing the reliability of species distribution data and prevalence of information sharing across states and regions.