Date of this Version
Restoration Ecology pp. 1-9. doi: 10.1111/rec.12494
One potential, unintended ecological consequence accompanying forest restoration is a shift in invasive animal populations, potentially impacting conservation targets. Eighteen years after initial restoration (ungulate exclusion, invasive plant control, and out planting native species) at a 4 ha site on Maui, Hawai‘i, we compared invasive rodent communities in a restored native dry forest and adjacent non-native grassland. Quarterly for 1 year, we trapped rodents on three replicate transects (107 rodent traps) in each habitat type for three consecutive nights. While repeated trapping may have reduced the rat (Black rat, Rattus rattus) population in the forest, it did not appear to reduce the mouse (Housemouse, Mus musculus) population in the grassland. In unrestored grassland, mouse captures outnumbered rat captures 220:1, with mice averaging 54.9 indiv./night versus rats averaging 0.25 indiv./night. In contrast, in restored native forest, rat captures outnumbered mouse captures by nearly 5:1, averaging 9.0 indiv./night versus 1.9 indiv./night for mice. Therefore, relatively recent native forest restoration increased Black rat abundance and also increased their total biomass in the restored ecosystem 36-fold while reducing House mouse biomass 35-fold. Such a community shift is worrisome because Black rats pose a much greater threat than do mice to native birds and plants, perhaps especially to large-seeded tree species. Land managers should be aware that forest restoration (i.e. converting grassland to native forest) can invoke shifts in invasive rodent populations, potentially favoring Black rats.Without intervention, this shift may pose risks for intended conservation targets and modify future forest restoration trajectories.