Aim To establish the factors that correlate with the distribution of the four most commonly introduced rodent species on New Zealand offshore islands — ship rat (Rattus rattus), Norway rat (R. norvegicus), Pacific rat or kiore (R. exulans) and house mouse (Mus musculus) — and examine if these distributions are interactive at the archipelago scale.
Location The 297 offshore islands of the New Zealand archipelago (latitude: 34° S to 47° S; longitude: 166° E to 179° E).
Methods Data on the distribution of all four introduced rodent species and the characteristics of New Zealand offshore islands were collated from published surveys and maps. The distribution of individual rodent species was regressed on island characteristics using a logistic generalized linear model. Interactions were examined by including the distributions of other rodent species as predictors in models.
Results All four rodent species appear to be limited by a variety of factors, which differ between species in both number and type. The distribution of ship rats is limited by the most factors, reflecting the extent of its distribution across the archipelago. The distribution of mice is the least explicative. Only the three rat species interacted in their distribution. The distribution of kiore on offshore islands is significantly negatively related to that of ship rats and to a lesser extent Norway rats. The distribution of mice did not appear affected in any way by the number of other rodent species on an island.
Main conclusions Differences in competitive ability and dispersal allow all four species to inhabit the New Zealand archipelago. Kiore distribution appears to be most limited by ship rat (and to a lesser extent Norway rat) distribution. The distribution of kiore was not found to interact with the distribution of mice on offshore islands, as has been suggested by others. The distribution of mice on offshore islands was difficult to model, which highlights the difficulties in managing this species. Overall the results offer valuable insights for management methods to assist preventing the invasion of offshore islands.