The rate of transportation, introduction, dissemination, and spread of nonnative species is increasing despite growing global awareness of the extent and impact of biological invasions. Effective policies are needed to prevent an increase in the significant negative environmental and economic impacts caused by invasive species. Here we explore this issue in the context of the history of invasion and subsequent regulation of cacti introduced to South Africa. We consider seven approaches to restricting trade by banning the following: (1) species already invasive in the region, (2) species invasive anywhere in the world, (3) species invasive anywhere in the world with a climate similar to the target region, (4) genera containing invasive species, (5) growth forms associated with invasiveness, (6) cacti with seed characteristics associated with invasiveness, and (7) the whole family. We evaluate each approach on the basis of the availability and complexity of information required for implementation, including the cost of the research needed to acquire such information, the likely numbers of false positives and false negatives, the likely degree of public acceptance, and the costs of implementation. Following a consultative process, we provide recommendations for how to regulate nonnative cacti in South Africa. The simplest option would be to ban all cacti, but available evidence suggests that most species pose negligible risk of becoming invasive, making this option unreasonable. The other extreme—reactively regulating species once they are invasive—would incur significant control costs, likely result in significant environmental and economic impacts, and limit management goals (e.g., eradication might be unfeasible). We recommended an intermediate option—the banning of all genera containing invasive species. This recommendation has been partly incorporated in South African regulations. Our study emphasizes the importance of scientific research, a legal framework, and participation of stakeholders in assessments. This approach builds awareness, trust, and support, and ensures that all interests are reflected in final regulations, making them easier to implement and enforce.
Management Implications: This article develops a framework for assisting decision-makers in developing effective nonnative species policies.
Using cacti in South Africa as a case study, we consider several general approaches for imposing trade bans and evaluate these on the basis of the complexity of information required for implementation, the likely numbers of false positives and false negatives, the degree of public acceptance, and the costs of research and implementation. Following a consultative process, we provide recommendations that have been partly incorporated in national regulations.
Our study highlights the importance of combining scientific research, stakeholders’ opinions, and legal components in developing new nonnative species policies.