Eradicating species reintroduced to other habitats because they are exotic is not the right approach to safeguarding the ecosystem. For researchers, other criteria must be evaluated, even before the category to which a particular specimen belongs.
Current circumstances require drastic measures to try to safeguard the world’s ecosystems, fauna and flora from threats that challenge the survival of biodiversity.
Let’s think about the first reproduction through assisted fertilization of white rhinos to save them from extinction or exotic species, which must be eradicated because they compete with native ones.
But is the elimination of so-called exotic or non-native animals that do not belong to the territory really valid as a nature conservation strategy? Apparently not. This is revealed by a new scientific study published in the journal Science.
A team of researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, and Oxford, UK, examined 221 publications on megafauna to understand whether non-native large herbivorous mammals had negative effects on the abundance and diversity of local flora.
The results surprised scientists because no significant evidence was found to support the thesis that herbivores introduced into an area foreign to them have a different impact than native herbivores.
The research highlights, however, that herbivores of a certain size would influence the type of vegetation. This depends on their size and diet. Animals like buffaloes, for example, have a less selective diet than other species and by feeding on more plants they allow for greater plant variety.
The research therefore suggests that all species should be studied in the same way based on their environmental role rather than labeling them as “exotic” and automatically proceeding to their elimination.
Our findings suggest that it is time to start using the same standards for understanding the effects of native and introduced organisms alike, and to seriously consider the implications of eradication and culling programs based on cultural notions of “belonging.” Instead, introduced animals should be studied in the same way as any native wildlife, through the lens of functional ecology,” said Erick Lundgren, lead author of the study.
The data collected is of fundamental importance as it can be used by wildlife services to monitor the health of the ecosystem, even more so today, when many herbivorous species have disappeared.
In our Parse, the case of the mouflons on the island of Giglio has caused much discussion, having been eradicated for being considered an invasive species and a danger to nature. For a part of the scientific community, however, this species carried ancient traits that had been lost in Sardinian populations.
In some countries of the world, such as the United Kingdom, extinct animals have been “replaced” by the introduction of other species capable of reestablishing the functions of that ecosystem with an adaptive approach. However, the debate over the consequences is very heated.
“We should study the ecological role that these animals, native or not, play in ecosystems, instead of judging them based on their membership,” the researchers note,” the researchers conclude.
Instead of indiscriminately exterminating thousands of animals considered invasive in the world, their functional traits and the best solution for the species and for nature must be evaluated.
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