Eradication of populations of an invasive ant in northern Australia: successes, failures and lessons for management
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- Hoffmann, B.D. Biodivers Conserv (2011) 20: 3267. doi:10.1007/s10531-011-0106-0
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Eradication is the most difficult management goal for exotic species, and successes are rare and even more rarely published. The lack of publication of the methodology and outcomes of eradication programs severely limits the transfer of knowledge to programs elsewhere that target the same or similar species. Here I detail the successes and failures of eradication efforts on six populations of African big headed ant Pheidole megacephala in northern Australia, covering a combined area of almost 9 ha. Two years post-treatment, assessment criteria for successful eradication were met for four of the six populations, whereas eradication failed in the remaining two, resulting in the need for ongoing management. Positive outcomes are attributed to eight criteria being met: (1) a single line of project management authority; (2) over-arching legal authority; (3) susceptibility of the target organism to control procedures; (4) sufficient resources; (5) detectibility of the target organism at low densities; (6) early intervention; (7) prevention of reinvasion; and (8) prevention of invasive succession. Reasons for one of the failures remain unclear, but eradication failed in the other because a part of the population was not treated. In both cases, the eradication failures could have been detected and managed much earlier than was the case. The successes and lessons documented here, coupled with the now large number of small-scale eradications of this ant, warrant the implementation of larger and more ambitious management programs against this significant invader, especially within areas of high conservation value.