Researchers look into the future to weed out problem plants

Jun 12, 2013
African Olive Fruit.

(Phys.org) —Researchers from Macquarie University and the University of Canberra have developed an assessment scheme that allows them to look into the future to see which exotic plants might become tomorrow's problematic invaders.

They have developed the new horizon-scanning tool, which screens potential plant invaders under climates and sends the information to land managers. The new assessment scheme, delivered through the WeedFutures website, allows land managers to 'horizon-scan', to assess which exotic plants may become problematic in the future.

" is a huge challenge for agriculture and biodiversity. The WeedFutures website enables natural resource and agricultural land managers a glimpse into a potential future," says Professor Lesley Hughes, Macquarie University.

In Australia, there are over 30,000 exotic plant species introduced since European settlement. A small number of these have become widespread problem weeds, including well-known species such as bitou bush, blackberry and lantana. Also among these are a huge pool of exotic plants known as 'sleeper weeds' – these are exotic plant species waiting for the right combination of factors to work together to support a successful invasion.

"Currently, are a huge cost to the Australian economy and to Australia's biodiversity. Millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours are spent trying to control agricultural and environmental weeds. The most cost effective management is to stop exotic plants before they become invaders," says Hughes

Visitors to WeedFutures can look at nearly 300 exotic plants to see how likely they are to become problem weeds under future climates. The website also allows visitors to narrow down their list of potential invaders to regional and local areas, including individual Local Government Areas, national parks and conservation reserves.

"The Weedfutures website will be of enormous value to land managers. It will provide an insight into the future by providing managers with a powerful tool for assessing emerging weed threats and prioritising exotic species for management under a changing climate," Associate Professor Michelle Leishman, Macquarie University.

The website will be expanded over the coming year to include many more exotic and will be an essential tool for trying to manage for the future.

Explore further: Drought causes birds to nest later, reducing nesting success

More information: Weed Futures website: weedfutures.net

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How native and exotic plants coexist

Nov 30, 2012

When people hear about exotic plants invading a new environment, there is usually a negative connotation. They often think of plants like kudzu, Chinese privet, or Japanese honeysuckle, whose thuggish behavior can push out ...

Screening preferred to halt invasive species

Mar 06, 2013

(Phys.org) —Stakeholders interested in the environmental impacts of North America's horticultural industry would prefer a mandatory screening process—over other policy options, such as fees or taxes—to ...

Recommended for you

Pragmatic approach to saving what can be saved

15 hours ago

How can biodiversity be preserved in a world in which traditional ecosystems are increasingly being displaced by "man-made nature"? Biologists at the TU Darmstadt and ETH Zurich have developed a new concept ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.