As a result of their generally negative impacts on recipient ecosystems, alien invasive species are an issue of global concern. In aquatic environments, the negative impacts of alien invasive organisms (fungi, plants, invertebrates and fish) include habitat alterations, disease and competition with and predation on native organisms. As a result, these introductions require management.
Over the last few years, Prof Olaf Weyl's research group has focussed on generating better knowledge on the distributions, spread and impacts of alien invasive species in South Africa. Outputs over the last 5 years include 43 peer reviewed papers as well as 3 PhD and 6 MSc students successfully obtaining their degrees for research on invasion related topics.
The group also has a applied focus and over the last 5 years has been monitoring the recovery of native biota in the Rondegat River following the removal of invasive smallmouth bass.
As well as focusing on biological dimensions in their research, the group has addressed human dimensions in a paper on managing conflicts arising from fisheries enhancements based on non-native fishes in southern Africa (Ellender et al., 2014). This paper focuses on important inland fisheries in the region that are based on non-native species and discusses the trade-off between ecological impacts of fish introductions and the need to address national policy objectives of economic development, food security and poverty eradication.
Funding for this research is derived from two main sources, the Water Research Commission (WRC) and the DST/NRF Center of Excellence for Invasion Biology, which have greatly facilitated the contributions that the research group has been able to make to the development of National Strategy, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act Alien Invasive Species Lists and Regulations writing National Risk assessments on a variety of alien fishes.
Weyl was awarded the WRC 2015 Knowledge Tree Award for Informing Policy and Decision Making at the WRC Research Development and Innovation Symposium and Water-tech Summit that took place from 16-18 September.