Publication Details

Auld, T. D., Hutton, I., Ooi, M. & Denham, A. J. (2010). Disruption of recruitment in two endemic palms on Lord Howe Island by invasive rats. Biological Invasions, 12 (9), 3351-3361.


Invasive species may have negative impacts on many narrow range endemics and species restricted to oceanic islands. Predicting recent impacts of invasive species on long-lived trees is difficult because the presence of adult plants may mask population changes. We examined the impact of introduced black rats (Rattus rattus) on two palm species restricted to cloud forests and endemic to Lord Howe Island, a small oceanic island in the southern Pacific. We combined estimates of the standing size distribution of these palms with the proximal impacts of rats on fruit survival in areas baited to control rats and in unbaited areas. The size distribution of palms with trunks was comparable across baited and unbaited sites. Small juvenile palms lacking a trunk (\50 cm tall) were abundant in baited areas, but rare in unbaited sites for Lepidorrhachis mooreana, and rare or absent in 3 out of 4 unbaited Hedyscepe canterburyana sites. All ripe fruits were lost to rats in the small fruited L. mooreana. Fruitremoval was widespread but less (20–54%) in H. canterburyana. Both palms showed evidence of a reduced capacity to maintain a juvenile bank of palms through regular recruitment as a consequence of over 90 years of rat impact. This will limit the ability of these species to take advantage of episodic canopy gaps. Baiting for rat control reduced fruit losses and resulted in the re-establishment of a juvenile palm bank. Conservation of both endemic palms necessitates control (or eradication) of rat populations on the unique cloud forest summits of the island.



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