Exploring integrative research in the context of invasive alien plant management

Keywords: Working for Water programme, qualitative content analysis, integrative research, invasive alien plants, social ecological systems

Abstract

Addressing complex challenges facing social-ecological systems (SES) requires the integration of knowledge from a diversity of disciplines and stakeholders. This requirement has resulted in the establishment of many integrative research programmes, both globally and locally, aimed at coproducing knowledge relevant to solving SES challenges. However, despite the increase in integrative projects, there has been little research on the nature and extent to which these projects acknowledge and integrate information from diverse disciplines or knowledge types. In this study, we explored the extent to which the integration of different disciplines has occurred, using a case study of the South African invasive species management programme, Working for Water (WfW). Here we provide an overview of the research produced under the auspices of WfW, and how it came to be. Additionally, we assess the extent to which research associated with the programme addressed the research priorities and how these priorities relate to one another. Findings show that WfW-associated research is primarily focused on the ecological processes and impacts associated with invasive alien plants and biological control. Social science and applied research are, however, under-represented, infrequent in nature and inadequately address the research priorities set in the programme. To address these shortcomings, we recommend the development of a detailed research strategy and action plan conducive to integrative research and transdisciplinary collaboration, and relevant to solving complex SES challenges such as those associated with biological invasions.

Significance:

  • We provide a reference point by which we can assess research progress and guide integration of diverse knowledge systems.
  • The results can help guide research decision-making as it relates to invasive species management.
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Published
2019-03-27