The scientific field of the biological control of alien invasive plants (AIP) has developed rapidly over the last 100 years but are some countries better than others? (Morin et al. 2013). Major sites of invasion like the United States of America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have therefore been at the forefront of scientific progress (Juliens and Griffiths 1998;McFayden 1998). And yet, the scientific advancement of the field has been a product of connected but distinct histories and conditions (Palmer et al. 2010). The history and conditions influence multiple factors within the discipline. Alien invasive plants have influenced the natural environmental systems through the loss of biodiversity as well as economic loss in both South Africa and Australia with various introductions and subsequent naturalisations (Groves 2002; Morin et al. 2005; Morin et al. 2013).This paper will look to compare the major differences between the Australian and South African scientific field of biological control of invasive plants.
The scientific field will be defined here as all the components within the practise of biological control as well as the sub-disciplines that may affect the practise. Components such as successes and failures, techniques, legislation, conflicts of interest, agent selection, host specificity testing, evaluation and other factors affecting the discipline will be looked in South Africa and Australia respectively. For each of these components, the strengths and weaknesses in both countries will be highlighted. Furthermore, recent studies over the last 15 years will be used preferentially. Strengths will be defined here as a positive quality which benefits the field while a weakness will refer to negative traits which hinder progress in the domain of biological control of AIP. It is important to note that these general topics are not entirely quantitatively comparable due to the aforementioned histories and conditions in each country. Therefore, the general factors that distinguish the countries will be discussed first so as provide an understanding as why the countries disciplines may vary rather than just to show that they do.
Since the first attempts of biological control both Australia and South Africa have been a part of the science, one as the supplier of the natural enemies and the other as the one that released said natural enemies on the AIP (Zimmermann et al. 2004). One large difference between the two countries is that Australia is geographically isolated while South Africa is not (Palmer et al. 2010). This is important to note when legislation of the transport of AIP into each country is involved. On the other hand, this geographical isolation has facilitated high levels of endemism in Australia which makes it susceptible to alien plant invasion (Thresher 1999). South Africa has a large number of AIP and a larger number of large woody AIP, more so than any other country (Morin et al. 2013).