Fungi and invasions in South Africa

Fungi and invasions in South Africa
Alan R. Wood
ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, PO Box X5017, Stellenbosch, 7599

Fungi are a major component of the functioning of any terrestrial ecosystem, however they are generally hidden from view and therefore little considered. There is an increasing awareness of fungi as drivers of ecosystem processes including invasion. The fungal dimension of invasions in South Africa is reviewed, both from the viewpoints of fungi as invaders and the association of alien and indigenous fungi with plant invaders. Available literature is reviewed, and placed within a South African context. Various hypotheses relating to invasion science and fungi are discussed within a local context. Examples of fungi known to be invasive in natural ecosystems are discussed, and problems associated with identifying whether a fungus is indigenous or an invasive. Fungi associated with crop and forestry plants are excluded. For almost all aspects considered, it is concluded that we simply do not have sufficient data to begin to understand the role of fungi in invasion in South Africa.