Invasive species are a major threat for island biodiversity, causing species decline and extinction globally. Of all invasive mammals rats are one of the most detrimental and have been the target of numerous control and eradication programmes. In Mauritius rats have contributed to the extinction of 50% of the island's fauna and are thought to be the main threat to the endemic Mauritius olive white-eye (Zosterops chloronothos), a critically endangered passerine. Assessing the impact of rats and suitable control strategies is often problematic in such cases because of the lack of replicate populations for experiments. Here, we illustrate how to overcome this issue by combining a small-scale rat management experiment on olive white-eyes with demographic models that provide estimates of the potential effects of management on vital rates and population growth. We established poison and trapping grids within breeding territories, and show that rat management significantly decreased rat abundance and increased nesting success. An individual-based stochastic simulation model suggested that rat control could produce a 5–6 fold increase in the annual productivity of female olive white-eyes, which in turn would be sufficient to stabilise population growth. In the absence of rat management, our analysis suggests the olive white-eye population will decline by about 14% per annum. By combining low cost field experiments with widely available demographic models we highlight the value of targeted, effective rat management techniques for both short and long-term population management in threatened passerines.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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