island conservation science invasive predators

Invasive Predators Implicated in 738 Extinctions in 500 Years

Invasive predators have contributed to hundreds of extinctions. Island species are some of the most vulnerable to impacts from invasives.

A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, edited by Island Conservation Board Member Daniel Simberloff, sheds light on native wildlife deaths amassed by invasive predators. The New Zealand native Stephens Island Wren is just one of many examples of a species driven to extinction by invasives.

This extermination was not an isolated event. It has played out over and over again as invasive mammalian predators—cats, rodents, dogs, and pigs—arrive in new habitats and decimate native species.

Lead author Tim Doherty and other researchers determined that invasive species are implicated in 738 bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions in the past 500 years. They found that the most vulnerable species are also often evolutionarily unique, and most of the species impacted by invasive predators can only be found on islands.

When we lose all of these island species we’re potentially losing a lot of unique species forever that are found nowhere else.

island conservation emu wren credit colin cock

The Southern Emuwren is found in Australia and nowhere else in the world. Credit: Colin Cock

To protect vulnerable species, conservation intervention is necessary–a “global conservation priority” according to Doherty and coauthors. Islands offer a unique opportunity–because they are finite and enclosed, it is possible to remove 100% of an invasive predator population.

Removal of invasive rats from Lehua Island, Hawai’i stands to benefit a diversity of seabird species. Credit: Island Conservation

Unless action is taken now, there could be many species whose value we won’t fully comprehend until they’re gone.

Featured photo: Vulnerable Fairy Tern. Credit: Andrew Wright
Source: Forbes

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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