Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Endemic plant species are more palatable to introduced herbivores than non-endemics.

Abstract

Islands harbour a spectacular diversity and unique species composition. This uniqueness is mainly a result of endemic species that have evolved in situ in the absence of mammal herbivores. However, island endemism is under severe threat by introduced herbivores. We test the assumption that endemic species are particularly vulnerable to generalist introduced herbivores (European rabbit) using an unprecedented dataset covering an entire island with enormous topographic, climatic and biological diversity (Tenerife, Canary Islands). With increasing endemism, plant species are more heavily browsed by rabbits than non-endemic species with up to 67% of endemics being negatively impacted by browsing, indicating a dramatic lack of adaptation to mammal herbivory in endemics. Ecosystems with high per cent endemism are most heavily browsed, suggesting ecosystem-specific vulnerability to introduced herbivores, even within islands. Protection of global biodiversity caused by disproportionally high endemism on oceanic islands via ecosystem-specific herbivore control and eradication measures is of utmost importance.