Date of this Version
Ecological Applications. 2022;32:e2716.
The brown treesnake (BTS) (Boiga irregularis) invasion on Guåhan (in English, Guam) led to the extirpation of nearly all native forest birds. In recent years, methods have been developed to reduce BTS abundance on a landscape scale. To help assess the prospects for the successful reintroduction of native birds to Guåhan following BTS suppression, we modeled bird population persistence based on their life history characteristics and relative sensitivity to BTS predation. We constructed individual-based models and simulated BTS predation in hypothetical founding populations for each of seven candidate bird species. We represented BTS predation risk in two steps: risk of being encountered and risk of mortality if encountered. We link encounter risk from the bird’s perspective to snake contact rates at camera traps with live animal lures, the most direct practical means of estimating BTS predation risk. Our simulations support the well-documented fact that Guåhan’s birds cannot persist with an uncontrolled population of BTS but do indicate that bird persistence in Guåhan’s forests is possible with suppression short of total eradication. We estimate threshold BTS contact rates would need to be below 0.0002–0.0006 snake contacts per bird per night for these birds to persist on the landscape, which translates to an annual encounter probability of 0.07–0.20. We simulated the effects of snake-proof nest boxes for Sihek (Todiramphus cinnamominus) and Såli (Aplonis opaca), but the benefits were small relative to the overall variation in contact rate thresholds among species. This variation among focal bird species in sustainable predation levels can be used to prioritize species for reintroduction in a BTS-suppressed landscape, but variation among these species is narrow relative to the required reduction from current BTS levels, which may be four orders of magnitude higher (>0.18). Our modeling indicates that the required predation thresholds may need to be lower than have yet been demonstrated with current BTS management. Our predation threshold metric provides an important management tool to help estimate target BTS suppression levels that can be used to determine when bird reintroduction campaigns might begin and serves as a model for other systems to match predator control with reintroduction efforts.
Natural Resources and Conservation Commons, Natural Resources Management and Policy Commons, Other Environmental Sciences Commons, Other Veterinary Medicine Commons, Population Biology Commons, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology Commons, Veterinary Infectious Diseases Commons, Veterinary Microbiology and Immunobiology Commons, Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology, and Public Health Commons, Zoology Commons