Guam Faces Biodiversity Threats from Invasive Species

The Fadang Tree and native bird species of Guam are at risk due to the invasive cycad scale and the brown tree snake, among others.

Guam, a U.S. territory within the Mariana Island chain, boasts a spectacular and biodiverse ecosystem worth protecting. Unfortunately, the lush biodiversity of this tropical habitat is currently being devastated by a number of invasive species. Some of the most noteworthy among them, the invasive Asian cycad scale and the invasive brown tree snake. The cycad scale is inflicting immense harm on the native Fadang Tree. The cycad scale is known for attacking the seedlings of the juvenile Fadang tree and thus, repopulating the species has proven challenging. Sadly, as a result of this, the Fadang tree is now classified as Endangered and at risk of extinction. On the other hand, the invasive brown tree snake has caused immense ecological harm to native bird species. Their presence has made 10 out of 12 native bird species functionally extinct. 

The native Fadang tree. Credit: Lauren Gutierrez

It is no mystery that Guam needs our help and support. For the current fiscal year, Customs and Quarantine requested a budget of $24 million to increase biosecurity measures. Sadly, only $14.9 million was approved, leaving them with a tremendous deficit in their fight to protect native wildlife. A number of these invasive species, such as the brown tree snake, could put other U.S. jurisdictions in jeopardy. If the invasive brown tree snake made its way to Hawaii, it could wreak havoc on the native bird species there. 

Ritidian Point in Guam. Credit: 白士 李

However, there is a reason to remain optimistic. Animal Keepers like Erica Royer have been working with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to breed and reintroduce Guam’s native birds. Last year, two native Guam Rails, a bird species native to Guam, were released on Rota Island (a nearby island within the Mariana chain). The Guam Rails have been thriving and rapidly producing chicks! Guam is not yet safe enough for the Rails to be released there, but their successful release on Rota is a symbol of hope for what the future has in store for Guam’s native wildlife with continued efforts to remove and control invasive species.  

Source: Pacific Daily News
Featured photo: A Guam Rail. Credit: Jean

About Stephanie Dittrich

Stephanie Dittrich is a current senior in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a transfer student from De Anza College. She is also currently pursuing a Certificate of Achievement in Geospatial Technologies and a second Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Foothill College. She has worked in multiple marketing and design focused roles at environmental nonprofits as well as the Genomics Institute at UC Santa Cruz. She just finished spending 3 months in Costa Rica conducting field work where she did an independent research project and wrote a scientific paper about flight response time in the Morpho peleides butterfly. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys working on creative photography and design projects, often centered around wildlife photography, as well as more experimental and contemporary subject matter.

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