Riparian Vegetation: Degradation, Alien Plant Invasions, and Restoration Prospects

Richardson, D.M., P.M. Holmes, K.J. Esler, S.M. Galatowitsch, J.C. Stromberg, S.P. Kirkman, P. Pysek and R.J. Hobbs

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This paper examines the biogeography and the determinants of composition and structure of riparian vegetation in temperate and subtropical regions and conceptualizes the components of resilience in these systems. We consider changes to structure and functioning caused by, or associated with, alien plant invasions, in particular those that lead to breached abiotic- or biotic thresholds. These pose challenges when formulating restoration programmes. Pervasive and escalating human-mediated changes to multiple factors and at a range of scales in riparian environments demand innovative and pragmatic approaches to restoration. The application of a new framework accommodating such complexity is demonstrated with reference to a hypothetical riparian ecosystem under three scenarios: (1) system unaffected by invasive plants; (2) system initially uninvaded, but with flood-generated incursion of alien plants and escalating invasion-driven alteration; and (3) system affected by both invasions and engineering interventions. The scheme has been used to derive a decision-making framework for restoring riparian zones in South Africa and could guide similar initiatives in other parts of the world.

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Peer-reviewed Article

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