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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Tour de Force by Hawaii's Invasive Mammals: Establishment, Takeover, and Ecosystem Restoration through Eradication

  • Author(s): Hess, Steven C.
  • et al.

Invasive mammals, large and small, have irreversibly altered Hawaii’s ecosystems in numerous cases through unnatural herbivory, predation, and the transmission of zoonotic diseases, thereby causing the disproportionate extinction of flora and fauna that occur nowhere else on Earth. The control and eradication of invasive mammals is the single most expensive management activity necessary for restoring ecological integrity to many natural areas of Hawai‘i and other Pacific Islands, and has already advanced the restoration of native biota. Science applications supporting management efforts have been shaped by longstanding collaborative federal research programs over the past four decades. Consequently, feral goats have been removed from >1,358 km2, and feral pigs have been removed from >723 km2 of lands in Hawai‘i, bringing about the gradual recovery of forest ecosystems. The exclusion of other non-native ungulates and invasive mammals is now being undertaken with more sophisticated control techniques and fences. New fence designs are now capable of excluding feral cats from large areas to protect endangered native waterfowl and nesting seabirds. Rodenticides that have been tested and registered for hand and aerial broadcast in Hawai‘i have been used to eradicate rats from small offshore islands to protect nesting seabirds and are now being applied to montane environment of larger islands to protect forest birds. Forward-looking infrared radar is also being applied to locate cryptic wild ungulates that were more recently introduced to some islands. All invasive mammals have been eradicated from some smaller islands, resulting in the restoration of some ecosystem processes such as natural forest regeneration, but changes in other processes such as fire regimes and nutrient cycling remain more difficult to reverse at larger landscape scales. It may soon be possible to manage areas on larger islands to be free of invasive mammals at least during seasonally important periods for native species, but at the same time, new mammal introductions continue to occur.

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