Thursday, January 20, 2022

Introduced land mammals and their impacts on the birds of the subantarctic Auckland Islands

TitleIntroduced land mammals and their impacts on the birds of the subantarctic Auckland Islands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsRussell, JC, Horn, SR, Miskelly, CM, Sagar, RL, Taylor, RH
Type of ArticleFull article
Keywordsbirds, conservation, eradication, impacts, invasive, mammal, subantarctic

Since the European discovery of the Auckland Islands, at least ten species of land mammals have been introduced there. Most arrived in the first half of the ninteenth century during periods of exploitation by sealers and whalers, followed by short-lived Māori and European settlements at Port Ross. Several species required multiple introductions before becoming established. For those populations that naturalised, cattle (Bos taurus) occupied Enderby Island and were eradicated by 1993, goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) remained restricted to the northern end of Auckland Island and were eradicated by 1991, while pigs (Sus scrofa) spread across the entire Auckland Island and remain there today. Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) established on Rose and Enderby Islands, and were eradicated in 1993. Cats (Felis catus) and mice (Mus musculus domesticus) were both first recorded in 1840 on Auckland Island and remain there today. Rats (Rattus spp.) have never established on the Auckland Islands. Collectively, cattle, goats, sheep (Ovis aries), pigs, and rabbits transformed habitats and altered ecosystem processes, and suppressed tussock, megaherbs, and woody vegetation on Auckland, Enderby, Rose, Ewing, and Ocean Islands. Cats and pigs are together responsible for the extirpation or major reduction of surface-nesting and burrowing seabird colonies, and ground-nesting land birds from Auckland Island. Before dying out on Enderby Island, pigs had similar impacts there. Mice have altered invertebrate community composition and are likely responsible for lower abundancies of wētā (Dendroplectron aucklandense) and large weevils (Curculionidae) on Auckland Island. Disappointment Island remained free of introduced mammals, while on Adams Island they had only fleeting and minimal impact. Humans also had direct impacts on birds through hunting for consumption, with large surface-nesting seabirds severely affected around Port Ross. The Auckland Island merganser (Mergus australis) was driven to extinction by presumed mammal predation and well-documented museum collecting. Eradication of pigs, cats, and mice from Auckland Island and Masked Island (Carnley Harbour) would remove the last introduced mammals from the New Zealand subantarctic region.

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