Controlling invasive plant species in ecological restoration: A global review

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


Invasive plant species can hinder the establishment and growth of native plants and impact several ecosystem properties, such as soil cover, nutrient cycling, fire regimes and hydrology. Controlling invasive plants is then a necessary, yet usually expensive, step towards the restoration of an ecosystem. A synthesis of literature is needed to understand variation in invasive plants' impacts and their practical control in restoration contexts, and to identify associated knowledge gaps. We reviewed 372 articles published from 2000 to 2019 covering the control of undesirable plants (both exotic invasive and overabundant native plant species) in ecological restoration to gather information on the main plants being controlled and methods used, and considering the distribution of studies among biomes and countries grouped according to the Human Development Index (HDI). Grasses and forbs were the most-studied invasive plant species in restoration sites, but invasive trees were well studied in the tropics. Poaceae and Asteraceae were the most studied families of invasive plants. Non-chemical interventions (mostly mowing and prescribed fire) were used in more than half of the reviewed studies globally, but chemical methods (mainly glyphosate spraying, used in 40% of projects using herbicides) are also common. The reviewed studies were mostly performed in countries with very high HDI. Countries with low and medium HDI used only non-chemical methods. Synthesis and applications. Decisions about which control method to use depend heavily on the invasive plant species' growth forms, the local economic situation where the restoration sites are located and resources available for control. More developed countries tend to use more chemical control, whereas less developed ones use mainly non-chemical methods. Since most of the reviewed studies were performed in countries with very high HDI, we lack information from developing countries, which concentrates global hotspots for biodiversity conservation and global commitments of forest and landscape restoration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1806-1817
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Simon Dunster, Aline Fransozi, Indiane Conti, Rafael Weidlich and Guilherme G. Mazzochini for helping in organizing the reviewed papers and data, as well as for the suggestion in organizing the dataset in R. We are also thankful to Carl Salk for reviewing the English, and Vanessa Sontag ( ) for improving the design of the figures. This research was funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP; grants no. #2012/11256‐3; #2012/19771‐4) and in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Brasil (CAPES) – Finance Code 001 with the scholarship of E.W.A.W.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 British Ecological Society

    Research areas

  • biological invasions, chemical control, exotic species, glyphosate, herbicides, mechanical control, non-chemical control, non-native species
  • Biology
  • Ecosystems Research