The University of Arizona

Principles and practices for managing rangeland invasive plants.

R.A. Masters, R.L. Sheley


Invasive plants reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide goods and services required by society, alter ecological processes, and can displace desirable species. They can reduce wildlife habitat quality, riparian area integrity, rangeland economic value, and enterprise net returns. The invasion process is regulated by characteristics of the invading plant and the community being invaded. The presence and spread of invasive plants is often symptomatic of underlying management problems that must be corrected before acceptable, long-term rangeland improvement can be achieved. Disturbance appears to be important early in the invasion process because it creates vacant niches that alien plants can occupy. Control of invasive plants may only open niches for establishment of other undesirable plants unless desirable plants are present to fill the vacated niches. In many instances, rangelands have deteriorated to the point that desirable species are either not present, or in such low abundance that plant community recovery is slow or will not occur without revegetation after invasive plants are controlled. Integrated weed management employs the planned, sequential use of multiple tactics (e.g. chemical, biological, cultural, and mechanical control measures) to improve ecosystem function (energy flow and nutrient cycling) and maintain invasive plant damage below economic levels, and emphasizes managing rangeland ecosystem functions to meet objectives rather than emphasizing a particular weed or control method. Sustainable, integrated invasive plant management strategies require assessing plant impacts, understanding and managing the processes influencing invasion, knowledge of invasive plant biology and ecology, and are based on ecological principles. Invasive plant management programs must be compatible with and integrated into overall rangeland resource management objectives and plans. Because of the complexity of managing invasive plants, it is imperative that relevant ecological and economic information be synthesized into user-friendly decision support systems.



decision support systems;mechanical methods;integrated pest management;expert systems;weeds;cultural control;biological control;endemic species;crop-weed competition;decision making;range condition;ecological succession;invasion;herbicides;weed control;plant communities;land restoration;range management;introduced species;rangelands

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