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A multi-criterion approach for prioritizing areas in urban ecosystems for active restoration following invasive plant control

Mostert, Elana, Gaertner, Mirijam, Holmes, Patricia M., O’Farrell, Patrick J., Richardson, David M.
Environmental management 2018 v.62 no.6 pp. 1150-1167
biodiversity conservation, conservation status, ecosystem services, ecosystems, erodibility, habitats, introduced plants, invasive species, land use, managers, soil conservation, soil depth, soil texture, vegetation cover, vegetation types
Resources for biodiversity conservation and invasive plant management are limited, and restoring invaded vegetation is labour-intensive and expensive. Managers must prioritize their actions to achieve their goals efficiently and effectively. They must distinguish between areas that require only the removal of invasive alien plants (“passive restoration”) from those that require additional restoration measures (“active restoration”). This study used a multi-criterion approach (Analytical Hierarchical Process) to develop a framework for identifying areas that require active restoration, and then to prioritize these areas for active restoration. The South African city of Cape Town is used as a test case to illustrate the utility of the framework. Framework criteria selected in determining the need for active restoration included: dominant alien species invading the area, density of invasion, duration of invasion, indigenous vegetation cover, adjacent land use, level of disturbance, size of the area, aspect, soil texture, soil depth and erodibility, slope and vegetation type. In deciding which areas to prioritize for active restoration, factors such as vegetation conservation status, selection in a regional conservation plan and connectivity function were assessed. Importance in ecosystem functioning (by providing a diversity of habitats and soil conservation) and the delivery of ecosystem service benefits were also considered. The resulting framework provides an objective tool for prioritizing sites for active restoration.