Containment can be a viable strategy for managing invasive plants, but it is not always cheaper than eradication. In many cases, converting a failed eradication programme to a containment programme
is not economically justified. Despite this, many contemporary invasive plant management strategies invoke containment as a fallback for failed eradication, often without detailing how containment would be implemented. We demonstrate a generalized analysis
of the costs of eradication and containment, applicable to any plant invasion for which infestation size, dispersal distance, seed bank lifetime and the economic discount rate are specified. We estimate the costs of adapting eradication and containment in response to six types of breach and
calculate under what conditions containment may provide a valid fallback to a breached eradication programme. We provide simple, general formulae and plots that can be applied to any invasion and show that containment will be cheaper than eradication only when
the size of the occupied zone exceeds a multiple of the dispersal distance determined by seed bank longevity and the discount rate. Containment becomes proportionally cheaper than eradication for invaders with smaller dispersal distances, longer lived seed banks, or for larger discount rates.
Both containment and eradication programmes are at risk of breach. Containment is less exposed to risk from reproduction in the ‘occupied zone’ and three types of breach that lead to a larger ‘occupied zone’, but more exposed to one type of breach that
leads to a larger ‘buffer zone’. For a well‐specified eradication programme, only the three types of breach leading to reproduction in or just outside the buffer zone can justify falling back to containment, and only if the expected costs
of eradication and containment were comparable before the breach. Synthesis and applications. Weed management plans must apply a consistent definition of containment and provide sufficient implementation detail to assess its feasibility. If the infestation
extent, dispersal capacity, seed bank longevity and economic discount rate are specified, the general results presented here can be used to assess whether containment can outperform eradication, and under what conditions it would provide a valid fallback to a breached eradication programme.
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