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Front cover - Biological Invasions Vol 12, Special Issue

In August 2009, the C·I·B hosted the 10th International Conference on the “Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions” (EMAPI10) in Stellenbosch. EMAPI conferences are held every 2-3 years and have become the premier international forum for scientific research on all aspects of plant invasion ecology and management.

A sample of 15 papers from EMAPI10 was compiled in a special issue of the international journal Biological Invasions entitled “Plant invasions: theoretical and practical challenges”. The special issue included numerous contributions from C·I·B researchers; these reflect the diversity of ongoing research on plant invasions at the centre.

Research on processes and mechanisms underlying successful invasive species changed rapidly from just being a “good study system”, to one of the most prominent fields in ecology. While invasion biology is as diverse as its subjects, most invasion biologists are interested in answering the same fundamental questions: What is it that makes some species successful in particular environments and what can be done about it?

The EMAPI10 programme mirrored the diversity in research on invasive plants with numerous contributions on, amongst other topics, climate change, restoration ecology, social aspects of plant invasions, plant-animal interactions, phylogenetics, and molecular ecology.

For example, on a global scale, C·I·B core team member Dr Llewellyn Foxcroft and co-workers attempted to explain why savanna ecosystems tend to have fewer widespread alien species compared to other biomes and found that, amongst others, propagule pressure and adaptations to fire may explain patterns. On a more regional scale Dr Jaco Le Roux and colleagues investigated the molecular systematics and pollination ecology of invasive Anigozanthos, an Australian group naturalized in the Western Cape. Their aim was to understand the groupís taxonomy and reproductive biology. These plants are currently extensively used in South Africaís ornamental industry and Le Roux et al. illustrated that the risks involved within this group may not justify further trade. In another contribution, C·I·B post-doc Dr Rainer Krug and colleagues, using simulation models, estimated the efficiency of alien clearing operations given different budgetary constraints. Scientists often struggle to relay such valuable information to managers dealing with invasive species problems. Indeed, a contribution led by C·I·B core team member Prof. Karen Esler revealed that applied research rarely gets implemented by managers. To address these issues, C·I·B post-doc Dr Justine Shaw and co-authors described the outcomes of facilitated dialogue between managers and scientists and found that more needs to be done to bridge this knowing and doing gap.

Other C·I·B contributions were papers by Prof. Sue Milton on “Plant invasions in arid areas: special problems and solutions: a South African perspective” [for more details, click HERE] and Dr Brian van Wilgen on “An economic assessment of the contribution of biological control to the management of invasive alien plants and to the protection of ecosystem services in South Africa”.

EMAPI 11 will be held in Hungary in August 2011. Details are available at