Ecology of Weeds


• The terms 'weed', 'invader', 'colonist', 'exotic', 'non-native' and others are often used in overlapping and conflicting manners.

• Weeds are classified based on their impact on human activities. Therefore, the effect of a weed is difficult to quantify because it depends on our personal biases.

• Definitions and classifications in ecology are often arbitrary and made for purely practical reasons. They do not necessarily reflect any innate structure of nature.

• Ecology can be studied at a variety of levels. In this book, we focus on population and community ecology.

• Weed ecology provides a basic understanding of the distribution and abundance of weeds in natural and managed systems. In the long term, it may change our attitudes and perceptions towards weeds and alter the way we manage them.


It may be tempting for you to start this book with Chapter 2. After all, the real information doesn't start until then, and exam questions rarely focus on what you learn in Chapter 1. However, Chapter 1 is important because it sets the tone for what is to follow. A Shakespearean play or an opera always begins with a prologue. If you walk in after the prologue has finished, you will certainly follow the plot and enjoy the play, but you might not understand the 'why' of the characters' actions. Consider this chapter to be a prologue. You may already know much of

© 2003 CAB International. Weed Ecology in Natural (B.D. Booth, S.D. Murphy and C.J. Swanton)

what we are about to say, and you may not be tested on it, but it will put what you are about to learn into context.

There are a number of excellent weed science (Radosevich et al., 1997; Zimdahl, 1999a) and plant ecology (Crawley, 1997a; Barbour et al., 1999) texts. We have found, however, that very few texts are devoted entirely to the basic ecology of weeds. A number of books are available on plant invasions; however, they often: (i) assume an in-depth understanding of ecological principles; (ii) focus heavily on the control and management of invasive species; or (iii) provide a detailed description of the biology of nd Agricultural Systems 1

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