Environmental weeds in Australia and New Zealand: issues and approaches to management



Environmental weeds are plants that invade natural ecosystems and are considered to be a serious threat to nature conservation. Australia and New Zealand, where biota with a high degree of endemism have evolved, are particularly susceptible to environmental weeds. Environmental weeds have been implicated in the extinction of several indigenous plant species, and they also threaten ecosystem stability and functional complexity. Historically, emphasis has been placed on the chemical or manual ‘control’ of weed infestations, often with little consideration of the long-term effectiveness or the ecological consequences of such an approach. As the threat from environmental weeds is becoming more fully recognized, an integrated, strategic and ecological approach to weed management is being recommended. In both countries, systems for screening new plants before allowing entry for cultivation have been developed. For already established plants, management is conducted within a legislative and policy framework such as the Regional Pest Management Strategies that operate through the Biosecurity Act 1993 in New Zealand. Noxious weed legislation in Australia has historically focused on agricultural weeds, but some Acts are (or have recently been) undergoing revision to give greater emphasis to environmental weeds and the involvement of the community in weed management. Quarantine, legislation, research and on-ground management are complemented by education programmes about the impact and control of environmental weeds. This paper provides an overview of the ‘tool-kit’ needed to manage environmental weeds in Australia and New Zealand, comparing and contrasting the approaches taken in the two countries. It also provides a broad framework for the case studies that make up this special issue on the ecology and management of environmental weeds in both countries.