Invasive potential and management of naturalised ornamentals across an urban environmental gradient with a focus on Centranthus ruber
Keywords:Centranthus ruber;, fire-driven ecosystem, mechanistic framework, Mediterranean-type shrublands, urban invader
Background: Predicting which alien species may become invasive is important in prioritising scarce resources for management.
Objectives: Sixteen naturalised ornamentals in Cape Town were assessed for invasion potential in relation to a mechanistic framework. The recently spreading species, Centranthus ruber (L.) DC., was studied in detail following management actions and vegetation fires.
Method: The mechanistic framework was developed using nine features most likely to promote invasiveness. Species were assessed from their known characteristics, local usage and distribution records, including citizen science surveys. Surveys were conducted for C. ruber to assess its ability to survive and spread post-fire. Control efficacy for Centranthus ruber was assessed in plots at two sites.
Results: Nine species with more than 25 naturalisation records had a median of seven features that promote invasion compared to five features in the less recorded group of seven species. Centranthus ruber was widespread in modified urban habitats and persisted in natural habitats following vegetation fires and is a high priority for control. Post-fire mechanical and chemical control of C. ruber significantly reduced its density and cover, but did not eliminate it.
Conclusion: Naturalised ornamentals can move rapidly from latent to invasive phases; therefore, monitoring should start during the latent phase to detect sudden change. In firedriven ecosystems it is essential to have good pre-fire baseline data. More residents should be encouraged to become spotters through citizen science programmes and to report new naturalised ornamentals. It is important to act early in the invasion process and to allocate sufficient resources, if a newly invasive species is to be contained.