Assessing the risk of invasive success in Pinus and Banksia in South African mountain fynbos


  • Nomenclature: Little & Critchfield (1969) for Pinus; George (1981, 1987) for Banksia.


Abstract. South African mountain fynbos has been severely invaded by trees and shrubs introduced from other mediterranean-climate regions. Management of these invasions should involve controlling current invaders and screening future introductions. Invasion windows are described and functional groups are defined for pines based on life history attributes important for invasion in the fire-prone mountain fynbos. The most successful invasive pines here (Pinus halepensis, P. pinaster and P. radiata) are fire-resilient and have small seeds, low seed-wing loadings, short juvenile periods, moderate to high degrees of serotiny and relatively poor fire-tolerance as adults. Other species with these attributes, especially from mediterranean-climate regions, wouldbe high-risk introductions. Taxa in other functional groups have not become major weeds even with widespread man-aided dissemination.

Experience with pine invaders was used to define functional groups in western Australian Banksia species (Proteaceae), shrubs and trees which include taxa with similar attributes to fynbos invaders (e.g. Hakea and Pinus spp.). Banksias have only recently been introduced to the Cape, and are likely to be increasingly cultivated for the cut flower market. Tall serotinous shrubs with many small seeds per plant, short juvenile periods and low fire tolerance were identified as high risk introductions. This group includes thicket-forming species which maintain very large viable seed banks, e.g. Banksia burdettii, B. hookeriana and B. leptophylla. Low sprouting shrubs with few large seeds per plant and long juvenile periods are unlikely to become invasive in mountain fynbos.

The approach of defining functional groups based on life history attributes and invasion windows is valuable for predicting the probability of invasive success. Chance interactions suchas an opportunistic dispersal mutualism between Pinus pinea and an introduced squirrel sometimes confound these predictions and underscore the idiosyncracies inherent in biological invasions.