NEW RESEARCH HAS ADDED MORE WEIGHT TO THE THEORY THAT Restoring populations of native predators could help keep troublesome invasive species in check.
New research published today finds that restoring Ireland’s native predators, specifically lynxes and wolves, could help control growing populations of sika deer, which is one of the most environmentally damaging invasive species in Europe.
Invasive species are the main cause of extinction in the last century and pose one of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide. Experts estimate this cost to be at least $162 billion each year.
Native predators are essential to keep an ecosystem functioning, but they are in decline around the world. The lack of native predators allows invasive species to proliferate, endangering native populations.
Sika deer are considered a pest as they graze on crops and strip the bark off trees, killing them. They are also believed to contribute to the spread of diseases such as bovine and avian tuberculosis.
The new research provides strong evidence that lynx and wolves could affect sika deer populations in Ireland and Britain.
Deer and other invasive species have an “evolutionary naivety” to native predators and also lack places to hide in the habitat.
The new study says that these twin factors could underpin the abilities of native predators to provide effective control of invasive species.
The newspaper examined the potential environmental (and economic) benefits of reintroducing wolves as part of his ‘Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future’ podcast series in 2019.
Dr Joshua Twining from Queen’s University Belfast and Cornell University, who led the research, said: “In a modern world that is intimidated by environmental crisis and ecological collapse, it is more important than ever to realize the potential of restore native predators in ecosystems that have been previously lost.
This applies globally, but it is especially true in Britain and Ireland, where we have chased all of our large predators to extinction with no natural means of recovery.
The study also shows how the recovery of the lynx and wolf in Europe could limit raccoon dogs below the threshold for persistence of rabies, which remains a major threat to human and animal health.
Researchers previously found that the recovery of the native pine marten in Ireland and the UK has resulted in landscape-scale declines in the invasive gray squirrel.
The study shows that the recovery of the wolf in Europe “could limit raccoon dogs below the threshold for persistence of rabies.
Source: Milo Weiler
The new paper, published in the journal Global Change Biology, also ventures into the United States, where it examines how the predatory Florida panther might help control invasive warthogs.
Feral hogs are widely considered to be the most destructive invasive species in the United States, causing ecosystem damage, destroying crops, and hunting animals such as birds and amphibians to near extinction.
The study demonstrates that the Florida panther, which was one of the first species added to the US Endangered Species List in 1973, could provide an effective and cost-effective solution to limit the spread of feral pigs.
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“Our work demonstrates the plausibility of a nature-based approach to the control of certain invasive species around the world.
“Restoring native predators can provide effective solutions for some of the most damaging invasive species and thus buffer our natural systems against some of the worst human impacts,” concludes Dr. Twining.