Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

An eco-evolutionary approach to restoring native wildlife in invaded ecosystems (#402)

Menna Jones 1
  1. University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

New approaches are needed to tackle the global loss of biodiversity from novel impacts, such as invasive species and emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). This requires innovative thinking and integrated approaches that harness the power of natural ecological interactions and conserve the natural evolutionary processes inherent within complex ecological systems. Australian ecosystems are broadly dominated by invasive predators maintained at high density by the highly fecund invasive prey species with which they were co-introduced. Native mammals, which have lower fecundity, cannot withstand this amplified predation pressure. In addition, populations of Tasmania’s apex mammalian predator, the devil, has been decimated by an EID, which will likely release feral cats from competition, with cascading loss of smaller biodiversity. Direct control of invasive predators and infectious diseases of wildlife frequently fail because it needs to be maintained at high intensity over large areas and in perpetuity. I will present a multifaceted approach to facilitating native species recovery in invaded landscapes. The ecological component involves manipulating ‘leverage points’ in food webs; these being nodes where a small intervention can trigger cascading changes of larger effect elsewhere. Leverage points include: restoring native apex and meso-predators to outcompete cats, controlling rabbits to reduce cats, and restoring habitat structure to provide refuge from predators. The evolutionary approach focuses on facilitating host adaptation to novel challenges, in this case rapid evolution of the Tasmanian devil to facial tumour disease (DFTD). These approaches are multi-scaled and animal-centric, linking individual-level behavioural decisions with occupancy and community structure at larger scales.