Abstract

Introduced goats and European rabbits have caused devastating effects on island vegetation, and many successful efforts to eradicate these introduced animals have taken place mainly since the 1950s. Yet, a comprehensive review of vegetation response to goat and rabbit eradications is lacking. We conducted a literature search for articles on vegetation assessments before and after eradications. We conducted two kinds of reviews of species richness and cover response to eradication: a literature review for studies that provided qualitative or species-by-species responses to eradications and a meta-analysis on quantitative vegetation cover and species richness data. A key finding from our literature search was a significant information gap in the reporting of vegetation responses after eradication. Of over 200 successful island eradications that have been conducted since the 1800s, we found only 23 eradication studies that met our criteria for inclusion in the present analysis. Plant richness and vegetation cover increased more often than they decreased after eradication. Results varied according to region, herbivore type, habitat, and vegetation type, suggesting island-specific circumstances influence responses. The effect of eradication on Sub-Antarctic tundra species richness and on tropical vegetation percentage cover was higher than for other types of vegetation. Few cases differentiate responses of native versus exotic plant species, despite native biodiversity protection being one common goal of introduced herbivore eradication. We strongly recommend before and after eradication vegetation monitoring to understand how island ecosystems respond to eradication. Continuous monitoring would provide guidance on whether active restoration strategies need to be implemented to recover key native species and on the development of a general model of expected vegetation response, which is an integral first step to accelerate our predictive ability of vegetation responses.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-6188
Print ISSN
0030-8870
Pages
pp. 55-71
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Open Access
No
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