, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 161-172

Now you See them, Now you don't! – Population Crashes of Established Introduced Species

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Abstract

Substantial populations of invasive non-indigenous species occasionally collapse dramatically. Although disease is often invoked, the causes are rarely studied experimentally and/or quantitatively, and some collapses remain quite mysterious. The widespread invasive snail Achatina fulica and pondweed Elodea canadensis appear to be characterized by rapid expansion followed by rapid decline. For the former species, disease may be the proximal cause of the collapse, while repeated collapse of the latter species is unexplained. Several other widely cited collapses of introduced species may simply be temporary lows during a more or less regular boom-and-bust cycle. However, on a restricted site (such as a small island), a boom-or-bust cycle may be impossible and recovery may never ensue; local extinction may even occur. In several instances, apparently spontaneous crashes were in fact probably caused by subsequently introduced competitors. Except for the few species in which spontaneous collapse has been repeatedly observed, the possibility of such an event is unwarranted as a potential rationale for a do-nothing approach to management. For such species, even if a crash ultimately occurs, the species may already have caused persistent ecological damage.