Reintroducing native predators could control invasive species, study finds – The Irish Times

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Restoring populations of native predatory mammals, including reintroducing lynx to Europe and even Ireland, could help control the world’s most problematic invasive species, according to a study led by Queen’s University Belfast and the Cornell University in the United States.

“In a modern world that is intimidated by environmental crisis and ecological collapse, it is more important than ever to realize the potential for restoring native predators to ecosystems from where they were previously lost,” said the lead author, Dr. Joshua Twining of the QUB School of Biological Sciences and the Cornell Department of Natural Resources.

This applies globally, “but is particularly applicable in Britain and Ireland where we have persecuted all of our large predators to extinction with no natural means of recovery,” he said. he declares.

The study shows how reintroducing the native lynx could help manage one of Europe’s most damaging invasive species, the sika deer.

Sika deer are considered pests because they browse on crops and “ring” trees, stripping bark from the base, causing them to die. They are also thought to contribute to the spread of diseases such as bovine and avian tuberculosis. “The new research provides strong evidence that lynx could be impacting sika deer populations in Britain and Ireland,” said Dr Twining.

The original Celtic tiger, the Eurasian lynx, was a large cat that roamed Ireland around 1,300 years ago and is said to have preyed on copious amounts of mountain hares and red deer.

The study shows how the recovery of lynx and wolves in Europe “could limit raccoon dogs below the threshold for the persistence of rabies, which remains a huge threat to human and animal health”.

The research team involved has previously shown how the recovery of the native pine marten in Ireland and the UK has led to a large-scale decline of the invasive gray squirrel. Based on this, the team has now assessed the reintroduction and restoration of native predators “as a viable nature-based solution to the invasive species crisis”.

Threat to biodiversity

Their latest analysis indicates that the range of the pine marten increased in Ireland by 205% from 2007 to 2019, while simultaneously the range of the red squirrel increased by 52% and that of the gray squirrel decreased by 41%.

Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and the leading cause of vertebrate extinction over the past century, with an estimated cost of at least $162 billion per year. The decline of those species that stand out for their backbones or backbones – including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish – has continued to accelerate.

Populations of native predators have been depleted globally, despite being essential for ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, the study notes – the absence of native predators facilitates the spread of invasive species leading to extinction of native species.

The research, published June 16 in Global Change Biology, found that restoring native predators could provide a solution to a variety of the world’s most damaging invasive species.

“The evolutionary naivety of invasive species to native predators, coupled with a lack of spatial refuges from predation, may underlie the abilities of native predators to provide effective control of some established invasive species,” he concludes.

Research examines how the predatory Florida panther, one of the first species added to the US endangered species list in 1973, could help control invasive feral pigs, which damage ecosystems, destroy crops and hunt animals such as birds and amphibians to near extinction.

Dr Twining added: “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 to some of the most damaging invasive species and thus protect our natural systems from some of the worst human impacts.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and NUI Galway contributed to the study.

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