The unaddressed threat of invasive animals in U.S. National Parks

  • Ashley A. DayerEmail author
  • Kent H. Redford
  • Karl J. Campbell
  • Christopher R. Dickman
  • Rebecca S. Epanchin-Niell
  • Edwin D. Grosholz
  • David E. Hallac
  • Elaine F. Leslie
  • Leslie A. Richardson
  • Mark W. Schwartz
Perspectives and paradigms


Invasive species, both plants and animals, are a long-standing threat to the National Parks of the United States. For nearly two decades the National Park Service has implemented a service-wide invasive plant management program without a commensurate program focusing on invasive animals. While individual park units are struggling to sufficiently address the threat of invasive terrestrial and aquatic animal species, a system-wide effort could bring the resources and capacity needed to address a challenge of this magnitude. We present our key findings from a detailed review about invasive animal species and their management by the National Park Service. We assert that the global threat of invasive animals substantially undermines the National Park Service mission. Coordinated action could improve the ability for the National Park Service to meet the challenge, and partnering with neighboring agencies and invasive species networks outside of the National Park Service is essential for success. Public engagement, cooperation and support is also critical and can be accomplished through strategic engagement efforts. Finally, the National Park Service would benefit from the development of an invasive animal program that includes structured decision support, adaptive management and monitoring, the organizational structure to meet the highest needs, and capitalizing on the significant opportunities that exist through the appropriate use of emerging technologies.


Invasive species Public lands Protected areas Land management Introductions 



RE–N was supported in part by National Science Foundation Award #1617309. We thank J. Dennis for his thoughtful review of a previous version of the manuscript. Kassandra Hardy worked with us to design the graphic for Fig. 1. Alison McClung contributed to the literature review of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

Three of the co-authors (DH, EL, and LR) are employed by the National Park Service. The lead author and other co-authors received travel funding from the National Park Service to attend a worksession that informed this manuscript. One of the co-authors (KR) was also funded to coordinate this project.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fish and Wildlife ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Archipelago ConsultingPortlandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of New EnglandBiddefordUSA
  4. 4.Environmental Futures Research InstituteGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  5. 5.Island ConservationPuerto AyoraEcuador
  6. 6.School of Agriculture and Food SciencesThe University of QueenslandGattonAustralia
  7. 7.School of Life and Environmental SciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  8. 8.Resources for the FutureWashingtonUSA
  9. 9.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  10. 10.U.S. National Park ServiceNational Parks of Eastern North CarolinaManteoUSA
  11. 11.U.S. National Park ServiceFort CollinsUSA

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