Le Maitre, D.C. et al. (2020). Impacts of Plant Invasions on Terrestrial Water Flows in South Africa. In: van Wilgen, B., Measey, J., Richardson, D., Wilson, J., Zengeya, T. (eds) Biological Invasions in South Africa. Invading Nature - Springer Series in Invasion Ecology, vol 14. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_15
Considerable advances have been made since the first estimates of the impacts of invasive alien plants on water resources in the early 1990s. A large body of evidence shows that invasive alien plants can increase transpiration and evaporation losses and thus reduce river flows and mean annual runoff. Riparian invasions, and those in areas where groundwater is accessible, have 1.2–2 times the impact of invasions in dryland areas. The magnitude of the impacts is directly related to differences between the invading species and the dominant native species in size, rooting depth and leaf phenology. Information on the impacts has been successfully used to compare the water use of invasive plants and different land cover classes, to quantify the water resource benefits of control measures, and to prioritise areas for control operations. Nationally, the impacts of invasive alien plants on surface water runoff are estimated at 1.44–2.44 billion m3 per year. The most affected primary catchments (>5% reduction in mean annual runoff) are located in the Western and Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. If no remedial action is taken, reductions in surface water runoff could increase to 2.59–3.15 billion m3 per year, about 50% higher than current reductions. This review illustrates the importance of measuring water-use over as wide a range of species as possible, and combining this with information from remote sensing to extrapolate the results to landscapes and catchments. These methods will soon provide much more robust estimates of water use by alien plants at appropriate spatial and temporal scales. The results of these studies can be used in water supply system studies to estimate the impacts on the assured yields. This information can also be used by catchment water resource managers to guide decision-makers when prioritising areas for clearing and rehabilitation, and for targeting species for control measure.