What is it about?

In the absence of mammals, the fauna of islands is characterised by high endemism levels and a tendency towards gigantism, flightlessness and longevity. These characteristics have resulted in a high vulnerability to introduced animals, either directly via predation or indirectly through an alteration of food web interactions. Because invertebrates are important components of food webs and essential for many ecosystem processes, we investigated how different mammal and bird communities, present inside and outside a fenced reserve, influenced ground-dwelling invertebrates on the mainland of New Zealand. Some significant differences in invertebrate community composition were apparent inside versus outside the fenced reserve, predominantly the ground beetle Ctenognathus adamsi (Carabidae) being twenty times more abundant inside the reserve, and rove beetles (Staphylinidae) being eight times more abundant outside the reserve. The introduced Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula) was observed more regularly than other predators of invertebrates outside the reserve, while native New Zealand robins (Petroica longipes) were more highly detected inside the reserve. Despite differences in the vertebrate insectivore community outside the reserve (multiple mammals and introduced birds) compared to inside (mainly native birds), the resulting similarity in net predation pressure may explain the apparent similarity in abundance for most of the other 24 invertebrate taxa examined.

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Why is it important?

Removal of most mammals from within fenced reserves in New Zealand may enable introduced and native birds to flourish, with flow-on effects on the invertebrate community. We conclude that further study of trophic interactions and additional intervention, may need to be considered if invertebrate conservation is a desired outcome from fenced reserves.

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This page is a summary of: Effects of mammal exclusion on invertebrate communities in New Zealand, Austral Ecology, April 2021, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/aec.13020.
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