Could reintroducing the lynx solve Ireland’s sika deer problem? – Irish Times

A study by Queen’s University in Belfast and Cornell University in the US shows that restoring native predatory mammal populations, including bringing lynxes back to Europe and even Ireland, could help monitor the world’s most problematic invasive species.

Lead author Dr. Joshua Twining of the QUB School of Biological Sciences and Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University said.

This is true globally, he said, “but it is especially true in Britain and Ireland where we have persecuted all our large-bodied predators to extinction without any natural means of recovery.”

The study shows how reintroduction of the native lynx could help manage one of Europe’s most destructive invasive species, the sika deer.

Sika deer are considered pests because they graze crops and “rings” trees, stripping bark from their base, causing them to die. It is also believed to contribute to the spread of diseases such as bovine and fowl tuberculosis. “The new research provides strong evidence that lynxes can affect sika deer populations in Britain and Ireland,” said Dr. Twining.

The original Celtic tiger, the Eurasian lynx, was a large cat that roamed Ireland about 1,300 years ago and is believed to have fed on an abundant supply of mountain rabbits and red deer.

The study shows how the recovery of lynxes and wolfs in Europe could reduce the presence of raccoon dogs below the threshold of rabies persistence, which remains a major threat to human and animal health.

The research team involved previously showed how recovery of the native pine beaver in Ireland and the United Kingdom led to widespread declines in the invasive gray squirrel. Based on this, the team has now evaluated the reintroduction and recovery of native predators as “a viable nature-based solution to the invasive species crisis.”

A threat to biodiversity

Their latest analysis indicates that in Ireland the range of the pine squirrel increased by 205 percent from 2007 to 2019, while the red squirrel’s range increased at the same time by 52 percent and the range of the gray squirrel decreased by 41 percent.

Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and the leading cause of vertebrate extinction in the last century, at an estimated cost of at least $162 billion per year. The decline of these backbone or backbone species—including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish—continued to accelerate.

Indigenous predator numbers have been depleted globally, despite being essential to ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, the study indicates that the absence of native predators facilitates the spread of invasive species leading to the extinction of native species.

The research, published June 16 in Global Change Biology, found that recovering native predators could provide a solution to a variety of the world’s most harmful invasive species.

It concludes that “the evolutionary naivety of invasive species of native predators, combined with the lack of spatial refuges from predation, could support the capabilities of local predators to provide effective control of some well-established invasive species.”

The research examines how the Florida panther, one of the first species added to the endangered species list in the United States in 1973, can contribute to the control of invasive feral pigs, which damage ecosystems, destroy crops and hunt animals such as birds and amphibians. to the verge of extinction.

Dr. Twining added: “Our work demonstrates the plausibility of a nature-based approach to controlling some invasive species worldwide. The restoration of the original predator can provide effective solutions to some of the most harmful invasive species and thus protect our natural systems from some of the worst human impacts.”

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and NUI Galway contributed to the study.