Georgina Mace Prize 2022: Winner announced for early career researcher award

We’re excited to announce Luke Potgieter as the winner of the 2022 Georgina Mace Prize, celebrating the best article in the journal by an author at the start of their career.

Winner: Luke Potgieter

Research: Prioritizing sites for terrestrial invasive alien plant management in urban ecosystems

About the research

Rapid urbanization is placing increased pressure on natural, restored and designed ecosystems to provide services to growing human populations. The establishment and spread of invasive alien species within and around urban areas threaten biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and the services they provide. There is therefore an urgent need to protect and manage areas where biological invasions will have the greatest socio-ecological impact.

Invasive plant
Vincetoxicum rossicum at an understory study site in the Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto, Ontario, Canada © Marc Cadotte

In this study, Luke Potgieter and colleagues apply multi-criteria decision analyses and spatial modelling techniques to develop a strategic, spatial prioritization approach for identifying sites most vulnerable to new or expanding terrestrial alien invasions in urban landscapes. They consulted with local conservation authorities to develop multiple criteria to inform their prioritization scheme; the criteria spanned biodiversity and ecosystem services measurements. Potgieter et al. then compared the areas their analysis showed were sensitive to invasion with the range of a particularly invasive plant species in the area to show that many of the areas sensitive to invasion were indeed already invaded. Ultimately, the research yielded spatially explicit recommendations on where managers should focus their plant invasion control and prevention efforts.

Priority sites
Priority sites sensitive to new or expanding terrestrial alien plant invasions across the Toronto region based on biodiversity importance and ecosystem functioning, and the provision of ecosystem services

This exciting study combines aspects of social science, geography and ecology to produce research that can help managers make more informed decisions. The Editors highlighted the critical importance of such studies that help managers understand where resources can be focused to gain the most benefit per effort spent in a world where resource is increasingly scarce. Lead Editor Holly Jones was especially impressed by how the approach can be more broadly applied by others looking to prioritize management in areas beyond their study region and at other spatial scales.

About the winner

Winner_Luke Potgieter

Luke became interested in invasive species at an early age when the extraordinary diversity surrounding the farm he lived on just outside of Cape Town, South Africa, became increasingly transformed for agriculture and invasive species established themselves as regular features of the landscape. His winning article was part of a broader project with the local conservation authority in Toronto, Canada, which he worked on during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has since drawn from the approaches used in his study for several subsequent projects in cities across South Africa.

Find the winning article: “Prioritizing sites for terrestrial invasive alien plant management in urban ecosystems”, as well as the shortlisted papers for the 2022 Georgina Mace Prize in this virtual issue.

Luke’s blog post about the research can also be found here.

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