Original Research

Demographics of Eucalyptus grandis and implications for invasion

Kudakwashe Musengi, Sally Archibald
Koedoe | Vol 59, No 1 | a1437 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v59i1.1437 | © 2017 Kudakwashe Musengi, Sally Archibald | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 August 2016 | Published: 30 March 2017

About the author(s)

Kudakwashe Musengi, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Science, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Sally Archibald, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Science, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


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Abstract

Alien invasive species can have negative impacts on the functioning of ecosystems. Plantation species such as pines have become serious invaders in many parts of the world, but eucalypts have not been nearly as successful invaders. This is surprising considering that in their native habitat they dominate almost all vegetation types. Available theory on the qualities that characterise invasive species was used to assess the invasive potential of Eucalyptus grandis – a common plantation species globally. To determine rates of establishment of E. grandis outside plantations, we compared population demographics and reproductive traits at two locations in Mpumalanga, South Africa: one at higher elevation with more frost. Eucalyptus grandis has a short generation time. We found no evidence that establishment of E. grandis was limiting its spread into native grassland vegetation, but it does appear that recruitment is limited by frost and fire over much of its range in Mpumalanga. Populations at both study locations displayed characteristics of good recruitment. Size class distributions showed definite bottlenecks to recruitment which were more severe when exposed to frost at higher elevations. Generally, the rate of spread is low suggesting that the populations are on the establishing populations’ invasion stage. This research gives no indication that there are any factors that would prevent eucalyptus from becoming invasive in the future, and the projected increase in winter temperatures should be a cause for concern as frost is currently probably slowing recruitment of E. grandis across much of its planted range.

Conservation implications: Eucalyptus plantations occur within indigenous grasslands that are of high conservation value. Frost and fire can slow recruitment where they occur, but there are no obvious factors that would prevent E. grandis from becoming invasive in the future, and monitoring of its rates of spread is recommended.


Keywords

Frost; Eucalyptus grandis; Population dynamics

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