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Impacts of Invasive Species on Ecosystem Energy Flow on the Big Island of Hawai’i: Excuse Me, But Are You Going to Eat That Cane Toad?

  • Author(s): Abernethy, Erin F.
  • Turner, Kelsey L.
  • Beasley, James C.
  • DeVault, Travis L.
  • Pitt, William C.
  • Rhodes, Olin E.
  • et al.
Abstract

Worldwide, it has been estimated that invasive species have negative economic impacts in the billions of dollars, with impacts to island ecosystems being among the most devastating. While it is estimated that the most costly and destabilizing impacts are upon ecosystem functions, such impacts are difficult to quantify monetarily, and exact mechanisms are poorly understood. In particular, the role invasive species play in altering energy flow through ecosystems, specifically regarding the recycling of nutrients associated with carrion, is poorly elucidated for most invasive vertebrates. How invasive amphibians and reptiles, which comprise the majority of the invasive species biomass in island ecosystems, may be affecting energy flow within the scavenging pathway is virtually unknown. By setting out camera traps associated with carcasses of 3 taxa (coqui frogs, geckos, cane toads), this study has identified the dominant scavenging vertebrates on the Big Island of Hawai’i, as well as the fate of sequestered energy that is available to be scavenged upon the death of invasive amphibians and reptiles. These data contribute to our understanding of the functional mechanisms through which invasive species alter energy flow and stability of insular ecosystems.

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