, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 1653-1670
Date: 25 Dec 2008

A review on the effects of alien rodents in the Balearic (Western Mediterranean Sea) and Canary Islands (Eastern Atlantic Ocean)

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Abstract

Invasions of alien rodents have shown to have devastating effects on insular ecosystems. Here we review the ecological impacts of these species on the biodiversity of the Balearic and the Canary Islands. A total of seven species of introduced rodents (two rats, three mice, one dormouse, and one squirrel) have been recorded (six in the Balearics and four in the Canaries). Some of them can occasionally be important predators of nesting seabirds, contributing to the decline of endangered populations in both archipelagos. Rats are also known to prey upon terrestrial birds, such as the two endemic Canarian pigeons. Furthermore, rats actively consume both vegetative and reproductive tissues of a high number of plants, with potential relevant indirect effects on vegetation by increasing erosion and favoring the establishment of alien plants. In the Balearics, rats and mice are important seed predators of endemic species and of some plants with a restricted distribution. In the Canaries, rats intensively prey upon about half of the fleshy-fruited tree species of the laurel forest, including some endemics. In both archipelagos, alien rodents disrupt native plant–seed dispersal mutualisms, potentially reducing the chances of plant recruitment at the same time that they modify the structure of plant communities. We further suggest that alien rodents played (and play) a key role in the past and present transformation of Balearic and Canarian native ecosystems.