Detecting the impact of invasive species on native fauna: Cane toads (Bufo marinus), frillneck lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii) and the importance of spatial replication
An understanding of which native species are severely impacted by an anthropogenic change (such as the arrival of an invasive species) and which are not is critical to prioritizing conservation efforts. However, it is difficult to detect such impacts if the native taxa exhibit strong stochastic variations in abundance; a 'natural' population decline might be wrongly interpreted as an impact of the invader. Frillneck lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii) are large iconic Australian agamids, and have been reported to decline following the invasion of toxic cane toads. We monitored three populations of the species in the savanna woodland of tropical Australia over a 7-year period bracketing toad arrival. One population crashed, one remained stable and one increased. Hence, studies on any single population might have inferred that cane toads have negative, negligible or positive effects on frillneck lizards. With the benefit of spatial replication, and in combination with observations of prey choice by captive lizards, our data suggest that invasive cane toads have had little or no effect on frillneck abundance.