Lihle Dumalisile, Professor, Centre for Invasion Biology, Centre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa);
Michael J. Somers, Professor, Centre for Invasion Biology, Centre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa); Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa); e-mail:

Reference to article

Dumalisile L., Somers M.J. 2017. The effects of an invasive alien plant (Chromolaena odorata) on large African mammals. Nature Conservation Research 2(4): 102–108.

Section Short Communications

Alien plants have invaded most ecosystem types (terrestrial, fresh water and marine) and are responsible for the loss of irreplaceable natural services on which humankind relies. They alter food quantity, quality and accessibility, and may result in declines in native species richness, which may ultimately result in extinction. For an effective management of invasive alien plants, it is important to understand the effects that such plants have on all levels of biodiversity. However, the effects that invasive alien plants, such as the Triffid weed (Chromolaena odorata), have on mammalian biodiversity, especially large mammalian species, are not well-known, although they play major ecological roles in areas such as nutrient cycling. Also, little is known about the recovery of the ecosystem following alien plant removal. This study investigated the effects of C. odorata invasion on large mammalian herbivores in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and whether clearing of this plant helped in rehabilitating the habitat. We used track counts to estimate and compare species richness, diversity and abundance indices for large mammalian species between areas with differing C. odorata invasion durations (ca 2 years, ca 10 years, ca 20 years), areas with differing clearing times (cl < 2 years, cl 3–5 years) and an area without any history of C. odorata invasion as a control. The results from this study show that large mammalian species utilised the uninvaded and the cleared areas more than the invaded areas. Species richness, abundance and diversity decreased with increasing invasion duration and cleared areas showed an increasing species richness and abundance. We conclude that this invasive alien plant modifies habitats and their removal does aid in the restoration of the ecosystem.


habitat disturbance, invasion duration, invasion ecology, restoration ecology, track counts

Artice information

Received: 29.08.2017

The full text of the article

Augustine D.J., McNaughton S.J. 1998. Ungulate effects on the functional species composition of plant communities: herbivore selectivity and plant tolerance. Journal of Wildlife Management 62: 1165–1183.
Clarke K.R., Warwick R.M. 2001. Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation, 2nd ed. Plymouth: Primer-E, Ltd. 172 p.
Cole D.N., Landres P.B. 1996. Threats to wilderness ecosystems: impacts and research needs. Ecological Applications 6: 168–184.
D'Antonio C., Vitousek P.M. 1992. Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 23: 63–87.
Davis M.A. 2009. Invasion biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 264 p.
Dew L.A., Rozen-Rechels D., le Roux E., Cromsigt J.P.G.M., te Beest M. 2017. Evaluating the efficacy of invasive plant control in response to ecological factors. South African Journal of Botany 109: 203–213.
Engeman R.M., Allen L. 2000. Overview of a passive tracking index for monitoring wild canids and associated species. Integrated Pest Management Reviews 5: 197–203.
Engeman R.M., Evangilista P. 2006. Investigating the feasibility of a passive tracking index for monitoring wildlife in the Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia. African Journal of Ecology 45: 184–188.
Fitter A. 2003. Making allelopathy respectable. Science 301: 1337–1338.
Goodall J.M., Erasmus D.J. 1996. Review of the status of the invasive alien weed, Chromolaena odorata, in South Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 56: 151–164.
Gould A.M.A., Gorchov D.L. 2000. Effects of the exotic invasive shrub Lonicera maackii, Amur honeysuckle, on survival and fecundity of native forest annual herbs. American Midland Naturalist 144: 36–50.
Gurevitch J., Padilla D.K. 2004. Are invasive species a major cause of extinctions? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19: 470–474.
Holland E.A., Detling J.K. 1990. Plant responses to herbivory and belowground nitrogen cycling. Ecology 71: 1040–1049.
Hopcraft J.G.C., Sinclair A.R.E., Packer C. 2005. Planning for success: Serengeti lions seek prey accessibility rather than abundance. Journal of Animal Ecology 74: 559–566.
Howison R.A., Olff H., Owen-Smith N., Cromsigt J.P.G.M., Archibald S. 2017. The abiotic template for the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park's landscape heterogeneity. In: J.P.G.M. Cromsigt, S. Archibald, N. Owen-Smith (Eds.): Conserving Africa's mega-diversity in the Anthropocene: The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park story. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P. 33–55.
Leslie A.J., Spotila J.R. 2001. Alien plant threatens Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) breeding in Lake St. Lucia, South Africa. Biological Conservation 98: 347–355.
Macandza V.A., Owen-Smith N., Cross P.C. 2004. Forage selection by African buffalo in late dry season in two landscapes. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 34: 113–121.
MacDonald I.A.W. 1983. Alien trees, shrubs and creepers invading indigenous vegetation in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve Complex in Natal. Bothalia 14: 949–959.
McNaughton S.J., Banyikwa F.F., MacNaughton M.M. 1997. Promotion of the cycling of diet-enhancing nutrients by African grazers. Science 278: 1798–1800.
Milchunas D.G., Lauenroth W.K., Burke I.C. 1998. Livestock grazing: animal and plant biodiversity of short grass steppe and the relationship to ecosystem function. Oikos 83: 65–74.
Miller K.E., Gorchov D.L. 2004. The invasive shrub, Lonicera maackii, reduces growth and fecundity of perennial forest herbs. Oecologia 139: 359–375.
Parker I.M., Simberloff D., Lonsdale W.M., Goodell K., Wonham M., Kareiva P.M., Williamson M.H., Von Holle B., Moyle P.B., Byers J.E., Goldwasser L. 1999. Impact: toward a framework for understanding the ecological effects of invaders. Biological Invasions 1: 3–19.
Pyšek P., Pyšek A. 1995. Invasion by Heracleum mantegazzianum in different habitats in the Czech Republic. Journal of Vegetation Science 6: 711–718.
Reid C., Slotow R., Howison O., Balfour D. 2007. Habitat changes reduce the carrying capacity of Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, South Africa, for critically endangered black rhinoceros Diceros birconis. Oryx 41: 247–254.
Richardson D.M., Williams P.A., Hobbs R.J. 1994. Pine invasions in the southern hemisphere: determinants of spread and invadability. Journal of Biogeography 21: 511–527.
Rozen-Rechels D., te Beest M., Dew L.A., le Roux E., Druce D.J., Cromsigt J.P.G.M. 2017. Contrasting impacts of an alien invasive shrub on mammalian savanna herbivores revealed on a landscape scale. Diversity & Distribution 23: 656–666.
Samways M.J., Taylor S. 2004. Impacts of invasive alien plants on red-listed South African dragonflies (Odonata). South African Journal of Science 100: 78–80.
Schei P.J. 1996. Conclusions and recommendations from the UN/Norway conference on alien species. Science International 63: 32–36.
Sinclair A.R.E. 1977. The African Buffalo: a study of resource limitation of populations. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 355 p.
Te Beest M., Mpandza N.J., Olff H. 2015. Fire and simulated herbivory have antagonistic effects on resistance of savanna grasslands to alien shrub invasion. Journal of Vegetation Science 26: 114–122.
Te Beest M., Owen-Smith, N., Howison R.A., Dew, L.A., Mgobozi Poswa, M., Dumalisile L., Janse van Rensburg S., Terblanche C. 2017. Successful control of the invasive shrub Chromoaena odorata in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. In: J.P.G.M. Cromsigt, S. Archibald, N. Owen-Smith (Eds.): Conserving Africa's mega-diversity in the Anthropocene: The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park story. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P. 358–382.
Vitousek P.M. 1990. Biological invasions and ecosystem processes: towards an integration of population biology and ecosystem studies. Oikos 57: 7–13.
Wilkie D.S., Finn J.T. 1990. Slash-burn cultivation and mammal abundance in the Ituri forest, Zaire. Biotropica 22: 90–99.
Zachariades C., Goodall J.M. 2002. Distribution, impact and management of Chromolaena odorata in Southern Africa. In: R. Zachariades, R. Muniappan, L.W. Strathie (Eds.): Proceedings of the Fifth International Workshop on Biological Control and Management of Chromolaena odorata. Durban, South Africa. P. 34–39.