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J Environ Manage. 2009 Feb;90(2):798-807. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2008.01.012. Epub 2008 Mar 12.

An analysis of assessment outcomes from eight years' operation of the Australian border weed risk assessment system.

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  • 1Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management, Alan Fletcher Research Station, Sherwood, Qld, Australia.


The majority of Australian weeds are exotic plant species that were intentionally introduced for a variety of horticultural and agricultural purposes. A border weed risk assessment system (WRA) was implemented in 1997 in order to reduce the high economic costs and massive environmental damage associated with introducing serious weeds. We review the behaviour of this system with regard to eight years of data collected from the assessment of species proposed for importation or held within genetic resource centres in Australia. From a taxonomic perspective, species from the Chenopodiaceae and Poaceae were most likely to be rejected and those from the Arecaceae and Flacourtiaceae were most likely to be accepted. Dendrogram analysis and classification and regression tree (TREE) models were also used to analyse the data. The latter revealed that a small subset of the 35 variables assessed was highly associated with the outcome of the original assessment. The TREE model examining all of the data contained just five variables: unintentional human dispersal, congeneric weed, weed elsewhere, tolerates or benefits from mutilation, cultivation or fire, and reproduction by vegetative propagation. It gave the same outcome as the full WRA model for 71% of species. Weed elsewhere was not the first splitting variable in this model, indicating that the WRA has a capacity for capturing species that have no history of weediness. A reduced TREE model (in which human-mediated variables had been removed) contained four variables: broad climate suitability, reproduction in less or than equal to 1year, self-fertilisation, and tolerates and benefits from mutilation, cultivation or fire. It yielded the same outcome as the full WRA model for 65% of species. Data inconsistencies and the relative importance of questions are discussed, with some recommendations made for improving the use of the system.

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