The impacts of non-native species on the invertebrates of Southern Ocean Islands

Date: 06, Apr, 2019
Author(s):   Houghton, M., Terauds, A., Merritt, D., Driessen, M., Shaw, J.
Publisher: Journal of Insect Conservation

Isolation and climate have protected Southern Ocean Islands from non-native species. Relatively recent introductions have had wide-ranging, sometimes devastating, impacts across a range of species and ecosystems, including invertebrates, which are the main terrestrial fauna. In our comprehensive review, we found that despite the high abundance of non-native plants across the region, their impacts on native invertebrates are not well-studied and remain largely unknown. We highlight that non-native invertebrates are numerous and continue to arrive. Their impacts are multi-directional, including changing nutrient cycling regimes, establishing new functional guilds, out-competing native species, and mutually assisting spread of other non-native species. Non-native herbivorous and omnivorous vertebrates have caused declines in invertebrate habitat, but data that quantifies implications for invertebrates are rare. Predatory mammals not only indirectly effect invertebrates through predation of ecosystem engineers such as seabirds, but also directly shape community assemblages through invertebrate diet preferences and size-selective feeding. We found that research bias is not only skewed towards investigating impacts of mice, but is also focused more intensely on some islands, such as Marion Island, and towards some taxa, such as beetles and moths. The results of our review support and build on previous assessments of non-native species in the Antarctic region—that the responses of invertebrate fauna on these islands are under-reported and often poorly understood. Given the importance of invertebrates as indicators of environmental change, and their potential utility in quantifying change associated with island restoration projects (such as eradications), these knowledge gaps need to be urgently addressed.