Managing ecosystems in a sea of uncertainty: invasive species management and assisted colonizations

Rendall, Anthony R., Sutherland, Duncan R., Baker, Christopher M., Raymond, Ben, Cooke, Raylene and White, John G. 2021, Managing ecosystems in a sea of uncertainty: invasive species management and assisted colonizations, Ecological Applications, no. Accepted, unedited articles published online and citable. The final edited and typeset version of record will appear in the future., doi: 10.1002/eap.2306.

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Title Managing ecosystems in a sea of uncertainty: invasive species management and assisted colonizations
Author(s) Rendall, Anthony R.ORCID iD for Rendall, Anthony R. orcid.org/0000-0002-7286-9288
Sutherland, Duncan R.
Baker, Christopher M.
Raymond, Ben
Cooke, RayleneORCID iD for Cooke, Raylene orcid.org/0000-0002-8843-7113
White, John G.ORCID iD for White, John G. orcid.org/0000-0002-7375-5944
Journal name Ecological Applications
Issue number Accepted, unedited articles published online and citable. The final edited and typeset version of record will appear in the future.
Article ID e2306
Total pages 32
Publisher John Wiley & Sons
Place of publication Hoboken, N.J.
Publication date 2021
ISSN 1051-0761
1939-5582
Keyword(s) Phillip Island
bandicoot
black rat
ecosystem management
ecosystem model
ensemble model
feral cat
invasive species
qualitative model
Summary Managing ecosystems in the face of complex species interactions, and the associated uncertainty, presents a considerable ecological challenge. Altering those interactions via actions such as invasive species management or conservation translocations can result in unintended consequences, supporting the need to be able to make more informed decisions in the face of this uncertainty. We demonstrate the utility of ecosystem models to reduce uncertainty and inform future ecosystem management. We use Phillip Island, Australia, as a case study to investigate the impacts of two invasive species management options and consider whether a critically endangered mammal is likely to establish a population in the presence of invasive species. Qualitative models are used to determine the effects of apex predator removal (feral cats) and invasive prey removal (rabbits, rats, and mice). We extend this approach using Ensemble Ecosystem Models to consider how suppression, rather than eradication influences the species community; and consider whether an introduction of the critically endangered eastern barred bandicoot is likely to be successful in the presence of invasive species. Our analysis revealed the potential for unintended outcomes associated with feral cat control operations, with rats and rabbits expected to increase in abundance. A strategy based on managing prey species appeared to have the most ecosystem‐wide benefits, with rodent control showing more favourable responses than a rabbit control strategy. Eastern barred bandicoots were predicted to persist under all feral cat control levels (including no‐control). Managing ecosystems is a complex and imprecise process. However, Qualitative Modelling and Ensemble Ecosystem Modelling address uncertainty and are capable of improving and optimising management practices. Our analysis shows that the best conservation outcomes may not always be associated with the top –down control of apex predators, and land managers should think more broadly in relation to managing bottom‐up processes as well. Challenges faced in continuing to conserve biodiversity mean new, bolder, conservation actions are needed. We suggest that endangered species are capable of surviving in the presence of feral cats, potentially opening the door for more conservation translocations.
Language eng
DOI 10.1002/eap.2306
Indigenous content off
Field of Research 05 Environmental Sciences
06 Biological Sciences
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2021, Ecological Society of America
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30148196

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