Indirect effects of invasive species removal devastate World Heritage Island
Article first published online: 14 JAN 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 British Ecological Society
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 46, Issue 1, pages 73–81, February 2009
How to Cite
Bergstrom, D. M., Lucieer, A., Kiefer, K., Wasley, J., Belbin, L., Pedersen, T. K. and Chown, S. L. (2009), Indirect effects of invasive species removal devastate World Heritage Island. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46: 73–81. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01601.x
- Issue published online: 14 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 14 JAN 2009
- Received 22 September 2008; accepted 24 November 2008; Handling Editor: Marc Cadotte
- invasive species;
- trophic cascade
- 1Owing to the detrimental impacts of invasive alien species, their control is often a priority for conservation management. Whereas the potential for unforeseen consequences of management is recognized, their associated complexity and costs are less widely appreciated.
- 2We demonstrate that theoretically plausible trophic cascades associated with invasive species removal not only take place in reality, but can also result in rapid and drastic landscape-wide changes to ecosystems.
- 3Using a combination of population data from of an invasive herbivore, plot-scale vegetation analyses, and satellite imagery, we show how a management intervention to eradicate a mesopredator has inadvertently and rapidly precipitated landscape-wide change on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. This happened despite the eradication being positioned within an integrated pest management framework. Following eradication of cats Felis catus in 2001, rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus numbers increased substantially although a control action was in place (Myxoma virus), resulting in island-wide ecosystem effects.
- 4Synthesis and applications. Our results highlight an important lesson for conservation agencies working to eradicate invasive species globally; that is, risk assessment of management interventions must explicitly consider and plan for their indirect effects, or face substantial subsequent costs. On Macquarie Island, the cost of further conservation action will exceed AU$24 million.