Ross Shackleton

Ross Shackleton

Megadiverse fynbos shrublands to invasive wattle tree monoculture.

Main Contributors:

Ross Shackleton

Other Contributors:

Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, Dave Richardson


The southwestern tip of Africa is home to the Fynbos biome (Cape Floristic Region), which is characterised by highly diverse plant groups, many of which are endemic and occur nowhere else in the world. Numerous species of Australian acacia (wattles) were introduced to South Africa for multiple reasons, including sand/dune stabilisation, ornamental purposes, and forestry. Many species have subsequently naturalised and some are widespread invaders. The Australian wattles have filled an empty niche (trees in a virtually treeless system) causing a regime shift. This shift has induced many negative impacts to the social-ecological system in the area. These include alterations to fire and hydrological systems, changes in soil nutrient cycles, biodiversity loss, and negative impacts on local livelihoods and human well-being through loss of grazing, water supply, ecotourism and increased exposure to natural hazards. Ongoing management interventions include mechanical and chemical control and the use of biological control agents.

Type of regime shift

  • Introduction of aline species (Biological invasions)

Ecosystem type

  • Mediterranean shrubs (egFynbos)

Land uses

  • Urban
  • Small-scale subsistence crop cultivation
  • Large-scale commercial crop cultivation
  • Extensive livestock production (natural rangelands)
  • Timber production
  • Conservation
  • Tourism

Spatial scale of the case study

  • Local/landscape (e.g. lake, catchment, community)

Continent or Ocean

  • Africa


  • Western Cape, South Africa


  • South Africa

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Key References

  1. Allsopp N. 2014. Fynbos: ecology, evolution and conservation of a megadiverse region. Oxford University Press, USA.
  2. Blackburn T, et al. 2011. A proposed unified framework for biological invasions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 26, 333-339.
  3. Charles H, and Dukes JS. 2008. Impacts of invasive species on ecosystem services. In: Biological Invasions, Nentwig, W. (ed). Springer, Berlin. pp 217-237.
  4. Gaertner M, et al. 2014. Invasive plants as drivers of regime shifts: identifying high-priority invaders that alter feedback relationships. Diversity and Distributions 20,733-744.
  5. Le Maitre D, et al 1996. Invasive plants and water resources in the Western Cape province, South Africa; Modeling and the consequences of a lack of management. Journal of Applied Ecology 33, 161-172.
  6. Le Maitre D, et al. 2011 Impacts of invasive Australian acacias: implications for management and restoration. Diversity and Distributions 17, 1015-1029.
  7. Richardson DM, et al. 1989. Reductions in plant species richness under stands of alien trees and shrubs in the fynbos biome. South African Forestry Journal 149,1-8.
  8. Shackleton CM, et al 2007. Assessing the effects of alien species on rural livelihoods; case examples and a framework from South Africa. Human Ecology 35, 113-127.
  9. Turpie J, et al. 2003. Economic value of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the Cape Floristic Region: implications for defining effective and socially optimal conservation strategies. Biological Conservation 122, 233-251.
  10. van Wilgen BW, et al 2012. An assessment of the effectiveness of a large national-scale invasive alien plant control strategy in South Africa. Biological Conservation 148, 28-38.
  11. van Wilgen BW, et al. 2011. National-scale strategic approaches for managing introduced plants: Insights from Australian acacias in South Africa. Diversity and Distributions 17, 1060-1075.
  12. Wilson JRU, et al. 2013. A new national unite for invasive species detection, assessment and eradication planning. South African Journal of Science 109, 1-13.


Ross Shackleton, Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, Dave Richardson. Megadiverse fynbos shrublands to invasive wattle tree monoculture. . In: Regime Shifts Database, Last revised 2017-07-25 05:17:24 GMT.