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C·I·B HOSTS PREMIER INTERNATIONAL PLANT INVASIONS CONFERENCE IN STELLENBOSCH

EMAPI 10 - “Effective intervention through enhanced collaboration”

Llewellyn C. Foxcroft & Jan Pergl

In August 2009, seventeen years after the first conference on the Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions (EMAPi), the EMAPi road show invaded South Africa from its traditional habitat in Europe and North America. The EMAPi conference series has become the premier international forum for communication between invasive plant management, decision making and scientific research in the field of non-native plant invasions.

The story of EMAPi meetings and cooperation began with the International Workshop on the Ecology and Management of Invasive Riparian and Aquatic Plants held at Loughborough University in the U.K. in 1992. The following year continued with EMAPi 2 in the Czech Republic (1993). Since then, EMAPi conferences have been held every two years across North America and Europe (Arizona, Germany, Sardinia, the United Kingdom, Florida, Poland and Australia). As EMAPi conferences have been influential in shaping the research agenda for the study of plant invasions worldwide, its status as a premier international forum has led to the number of participants increasing substantially. Not only the conferences themselves have built-up the reputation of EMAPi, but also the proceedings published as edited books or special issues of journals. The initial focus of EMAPi on Europe quickly extended to North America and other parts of the World which later led to EMAPi becoming truly global in its reach, making unique worldwide connections between managers and researchers.

The 10th conference in the EMAPi series was held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in August 2009 and was hosted by the C·I·B. The meeting attracted 240 delegates from at least 29 countries, with geographic coverage of topics from Antarctic to Greenland. Special sessions and workshops were organized to stimulate better communication within research and management groups on specific topics. These include pine invasions, invasions in mountain ecosystems, protected areas and invasive species, and more general themes such as risk assessment methods, experiences on the management of invasive plants, policy regulations and funding of eradication and monitoring campaigns. Seven plenary presentations from leading figures from around the world were given on topics ranging from a scientific review of the biology of alien species and invasion patterns, to management and policy topics, by Marcel Rejmánek, Mark Burgman, Spencer Barrett, Sue Milton, Peter Dye, Petr Pyšek and Arne Witt.

Plant invasions affect all aspects of human wellbeing, economy and biodiversity, many of which were covered at EMAPi. The wide scope of EMAPi 10 and topics covered was clearly evident in the conference programme. Most of the time there were three parallel sessions, giving a total of more than 130 talks. Themes included the ecology and biology of individual species, climate change, risk analysis, mutualistic relationships, important management strategies, early detection and eradication, the role of trade and policy, and many other disciplines. The meeting strengthened the importance of perceptions of non-traditional topics such as communication, education & social marketing, policy studies, and linkages with restoration ecology or molecular ecology.

The importance of moving such an international meeting to South Africa was highlighted by the conference chair, Dave Richardson (Deputy Director: Science Strategy at the C·I·B), when he explained that Africa was clearly underrepresented in published studies on invasive species. The poor knowledge of the extent and impacts of invasions across the African continent undermines current management initiatives to reduce impacts of invasive species on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in African ecosystems. This is underpinned by the lack of resources in many African countries where the capacity of developing countries is significantly constrained, especially with regard to addressing problems related to invasive species. Citing Richardson, we can agree that “These include factors that people in developing countries tend to take for granted, like the presence of a stable community of scientists, the availability of a corps of volunteers to participate in key phases of research and management, and a high level of public awareness of the problems associated with invasions. On the other hand, people in developing countries have a higher dependence on natural resources, and in some cases are the custodians of the most important biodiversity hotspots. But, access to cheaper labour may open doors for operations that are impossible in developed countries.” Here we would like to highlight the active participation of local communities and nature conservation managers in dealing with invasive species, as they presented their activities in many of the EMAPi workshops and sessions. This conference hopefully represents a promising starting point in widening international cooperation within Africa. It was pleasing to note that at least seven African countries were represented at the conference.

The programme and abstracts from EMAPi 10 are available for downloading [click here - 1mb].

Several products will emerge from EMAPi 10. A selection of papers presented at the meeting will be published as a special issue of the journal Biological Invasions and several other thematic journal issues are envisaged.

A warm invitation is extended to all who are interested in plant invasions, from scientists, managers and policymakers, and especially those who havenít attended before, to attend the next EMAPi conference in Hungary in 2011. Preliminary details on the conference are available from Dr Zoltan Botta-Dukat (e-mail: bdz@botanika.hu) and the conference website will be launched soon at www.obki.hu/emapi2011.

Llewellyn C. Foxcroft; Conservation Services, South African National Parks; DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa [LlewellynF@sanparks.org]

Jan Pergl; Department of Invasion Ecology, Institute of Botany; Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic [pergl@ibot.cas.cz]

Besides the formal symposium sessions, delegates at EMAPI 10 had lots of opportunity to meet informally, in a range of discussion groups and in the field.