Prospects and risks of species reintroductions: a community ecological perspective
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
For many threatened species reintroduction of captive-reared individuals into the wild may offer the only hope of preventing global extinction. However, attempts to reintroduce a species into an ecological community from which it has once gone extinct often fail. This can be due to captivity-induced genetic and behavioural changes in the species itself. Here we argue that also changes in the structure of the community caused by the initial loss of the species can hinder its subsequent reintroduction. Due to the interdependences amongspecies in ecological communities the local extinction of a species leads to changes in the densities and strength of interactions among the remaining species in the community and sometimes even to a cascade of secondary extinctions. Such alterations in the structure of a community caused by the initial extinction of the species might make it impossible for the species to reinvade at a later stage. Here we show, using models of multitrophic communities, that the risk of reintroduction failure can be high and that it differs between species belonging to different trophic levels and between weakly and strongly interacting species. Specifically, there is a high risk of reintroduction failure for primary producer species and weakly interacting consumer species. We also find the risk that the reintroduction will cause new extinctions to be higher in communities where the initial loss triggered secondary extinctions. In the worst case extinctions caused by the reintroduction may lead to the subsequent extinction of the reintroduced species itself. This risk is not negligible implicating that reintroductions might sometimes aggravate the state of local communities.
Engineering and Technology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14054OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-14054DiVA: diva2:22540