The impacts of the environmental weed Asparagus Asparagoides and the ecological barriers to restoring invaded sites following biological control

Peter Turner

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    [Truncated abstract] Weeds which invade native communities can have major impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem processes. However, these impacts are rarely quantified, and the mechanisms behind these impacts are rarely investigated. Asparagus asparagoides (L.) Druce (Asparagaceae; common name: bridal creeper), a plant native to southern Africa, is a significant environmental weed in southern Australia. Bridal creeper can invade both disturbed and undisturbed native ecosystems and then dominate native communities. As is the case for many environmental weeds, there has been little work conducted on the impacts of this plant. This lack of knowledge has hampered restoration efforts of invaded areas because very little is known about the potential for invaded communities to recover prior to undertaking weed management. There is a need to improve our understanding of how to manage ecosystem recovery during and after weed control. This can be achieved by (i) determining the impacts caused by the weed; (ii) assessing the condition of invaded communities; and (iii) predicting the impacts that weed management itself will have on the native communities. These three prerequisites to environmental weed control have been determined across sites invaded by bridal creeper in southern Australia. The impacts of this invasive geophyte have been determined through multi-site comparisons, weed removal experiments and controlled glasshouse and laboratory experiments. ... Without additional restoration, we will see those species that readily germinate and those that respond positively to increased soil fertility, replacing bridal creeper after control. This will be dominated by other weeds as the invaded sites have large exotic seed banks that will readily germinate. The tuberous mats of older bridal creeper plants will also leave a legacy as they will remain many years after control and still impact on vegetation, even if control has killed the plant. These impacts will be highest at sites where bridal creeper has dominated over the longer term. Environmental weeds, such as bridal creeper, that are capable of altering ecosystem functions can lead to substantial declines in biodiversity. Therefore, it was fortunate that bridal creeper became a target for biocontrol in Australia even though the impacts of the weed were not quantified when this decision was made. There are areas in southern Australia that are still free of bridal creeper or have sparse populations, and it is highly likely that this biological control programme has lead to the protection of these areas. This protection would not have been possible if other control measures were chosen over biological control, given that biocontrol agents can self-disperse and are able to give continuous control. This means that biological control of weeds in conservation areas can be very effective and is the only economically viable option for the control of widespread environmental weeds such as bridal creeper.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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