A conservation paradox for the 21st century: the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, an invasive alien and an endangered native species
Version of Record online: 17 APR 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 Mammal Society
Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 304–320, October 2008
How to Cite
LEES, A. C. and BELL, D. J. (2008), A conservation paradox for the 21st century: the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, an invasive alien and an endangered native species. Mammal Review, 38: 304–320. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2008.00116.x
- Issue online: 17 SEP 2008
- Version of Record online: 17 APR 2008
- Submitted 31 July 2006; returned for revision 16 January 2007; revision accepted 11 November 2007
- biological control;
- habitat management;
- 1This review highlights the status of the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, which is threatened within its native range and yet is a highly successful colonizer across its worldwide, introduced range.
- 2The European wild rabbit is a keystone species in Iberia, and the survival of a range of threatened predator species, including the Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus and Spanish imperial eagle Aquila aldabertii, is dependent upon the restoration of rabbit populations. Although not native to the UK, the rabbit also performs significant ecosystem services for nationally rare UK species, by maintaining short sward heights in heathland and grassland ecosystems, and serving as a prey item for populations of predators.
- 3We identify the European wild rabbit as an excellent model to demonstrate the wide range of complex effects that an introduced mammalian species may exert on ecosystems to which it has been introduced. These effects include habitat degradation following overgrazing, competition with native mammals and facilitating meso-predator release and hyperpredation.
- 4We also show that rabbit eradication from some sites may generate more problems than are solved because of the impacts of trophic cascades stemming from dependence on rabbits by native predator assemblages.