Sun, 25 Sep 2022

WELLINGTON, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand leads the world in creating island sanctuaries, according to a study published on Thursday which looks at more than 100 years of invasive mammal eradication attempts across 998 islands.

New Zealand is responsible for nearly a quarter of the world's island pest eradication. However, the pace of eradication has slowed, newly compiled data shows.

The new study of the University of Auckland and New Zealand's Institute of Landcare Research, shows that eliminating a key threat from islands invasive species has been implemented widely around the world with high success, which is key for protecting native plants and animals, creating ecosystem resilience to climate change, and providing co-benefits to people.

The study is the first synthesis of all reported eradication events of invasive vertebrates on islands worldwide.

"Our study found that success rates from invasive species eradications are high and have remained stable over time," said Dena Spatz, lead author of the paper and senior conservation scientist at Pacific Rim Conservation.

Islands are global hotspots for biodiversity and extinction, representing just 5 percent of Earth's land area but enduring 61 percent of extinctions since the 1500s and hosting 40 percent of today's highly threatened vertebrates, according to the paper.

Invasive species, especially mammals like rats, cats, and goats, were introduced to islands by humans either deliberately or accidentally, leading to harmful outcomes such as extinction by eating native species and damaging habitat.

Completely removing invasive species from islands has proven to be one of the most effective tools at halting and reversing this damage, it said.

The team's analysis found that eight countries were responsible for 80 percent of all documented eradications, New Zealand, Australia, France, Britain, the United States, Mexico, Seychelles and Ecuador. Many of these countries have successfully completed multiple smaller projects, particularly targeting rats on small islands, and are now focusing on larger eradication projects and a variety of species.

In 2016, a global partnership came together to remove invasive mice from New Zealand and Australia to help protect the islands' endemic and native species from extinction, such as parakeets, Spatz said.

The success motivated New Zealand to pursue more ambitious eradication programs currently under development, such as on the larger and inhabited Stewart Island, continuing to pave the way for key invasive mammals to be removed from the entirety of New Zealand by 2050, said James Russell, co-author on the paper from The University of Auckland.

New Zealanders have always been exporting globally island pest eradication knowledge, capability and technology, Russell said, adding the country aims to achieve its Predator Free goal by 2050.

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