Animal introductions to southern systems: lessons for ecology and for policy

03 November 2010

Numerous animal species have been introduced to areas from which they were previously absent, and many of these have become invasive, with substantial impacts. However, in other cases, impacts are assumed from theory. Empirical demonstrations are uncommon, making evidence-based conservation policy difficult to achieve. Here we review the broader ecological and conservation lessons from recent work on non-indigenous species in two southern systems, the policy implications thereof, and the subsequent changes to policy as a result of this work. First, we discuss invasions in the Antarctic region. Strong relationships exist between numbers of animal invasions and numbers of human visitors to Southern Ocean Islands, abiotic factors are often limiting for introduced species, homogenization across islands differs among taxonomic groups, and control actions can rapidly result in unintended consequences. This knowledge has influenced national policy and decisions within the Antarctic Treaty System. Second, we discuss ungulate introductions and translocations, both in South Africa and elsewhere. We show that substantial homogenization has resulted from both processes. However, firm evidence for impacts of ungulate introductions and translocations is sometimes difficult to find, despite the theoretical likelihood thereof. Such a lack of information may have profound consequences for the effective implementation of policy.