Potential consequences of the coqui frog invasion in Hawaii


Correspondence: Karen H. Beard, Forest, Range and Wildlife Sciences Department and Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322–5230, USA. E-mail: kbeard@cc.usu.edu


The Puerto Rican frog, Eleutherodactylus coqui, has invaded Hawaii and has negatively impacted the state's multimillion dollar floriculture, nursery and tourist industries; however, little is known about the ecological consequences of the invasion. Using data from Puerto Rico and Hawaii, the authors summarize the potential consequences of the invasion and describe future research needs. It could be predicted that the coqui would reduce the abundance of Hawaii's endemic invertebrates. However, data suggest that coquis are mostly consuming non-native invertebrates, and not invertebrate pests, such as mosquitoes and termites. Endemic invertebrates are likely to represent a portion of the coqui diet, but it remains uncertain which endemic invertebrates are most threatened by coqui predation and whether there will be indirect effects that benefit or harm them. It could be predicted that coquis would compete with endemic birds for invertebrate prey, but there is presently little overlap in the habitats used by coquis and endemic birds. Although, coquis may make bird re-invasion into lowland ecosystems more difficult; alternatively, coquis could serve as an additional food source for some endemic birds. Finally, it could be predicted that coquis serve as a food source for endemic-bird predators, such as rats and mongoose, and bolster their abundance. Preliminary data suggest that coquis will not bolster rat or mongoose populations. Managing coqui populations in Hawaii has been a challenge. A population has not yet been eradicated using citric acid, the only federally approved pesticide for coquis. It is unlikely that coquis will ever be eradicated from the islands of Hawaii and Maui, where there are now hundreds of populations. Quick and severe responses to new introductions may be the only effective means of containing the spread of the coqui.