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Learning from the past to predict the future: an historical analysis of grass invasions in northern Australia

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van Klinken, R. D., Panetta, F. D., Coutts, S. and Simon, B. K. (2015) Learning from the past to predict the future: an historical analysis of grass invasions in northern Australia. Biological Invasions, 17 (2). pp. 565-579. ISSN 1387-3547

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10530-014-0749-3

Publisher URL: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-014-0749-3


An important focus of biosecurity is anticipating future risks, but time lags between introduction, naturalisation, and (ultimately) impact mean that future risks can be strongly influenced by history. We conduct a comprehensive historical analysis of tropical grasses (n = 155) that have naturalised in Australia since European settlement (1788) to determine what factors shaped historical patterns of naturalisation and future risks, including for the 21 species that cause serious negative impacts. Most naturalised species were from the Old World (78 %), were introduced for use in pasture (64.5 %), were first recorded prior to 1940 (84.5 %) and naturalised before 1980 (90.3 %). Patterns for high-impact species were similar, with all being first recorded in Australia by 1940, and only seven naturalised since then-five intentionally introduced as pasture species. Counter to expectations, we found no evidence for increased naturalisation with increasing trade, including for species introduced unintentionally for which the link was expected to be strongest. New pathways have not emerged since the 1930s despite substantial shifts in trading patterns. Furthermore, introduction and naturalisation rates are now at or approaching historically low levels. Three reasons were identified: (1) the often long lag phase between introduction and reported naturalisation means naturalisation rates reflect historical trends in introduction rates; (2) important introduction pathways are not directly related to trade volume and globalisation; and (3) that species pools may become depleted. The last of these appears to be the case for the most important pathway for tropical grasses, i.e. the intentional introduction of useful pasture species. Assuming that new pathways don't arise that might result in increased naturalisation rates, and that current at-border biosecurity practices remain in place, we conclude that most future high-impact tropical grass species are already present in Australia. Our results highlight the need to continually test underlying assumptions regarding future naturalisation rates of high-impact invasive species, as conclusions have important implications for how best to manage future biosecurity risks.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Plants
Live Archive:16 Mar 2015 00:51
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:50

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