eCite Digital Repository

Disease-induced decline of an apex predator drives invasive dominated states and threatens biodiversity


Hollings, TA and Jones, M and Mooney, N and McCallum, H, Disease-induced decline of an apex predator drives invasive dominated states and threatens biodiversity, Ecology, 97, (2) pp. 394-405. ISSN 0012-9658 (2016) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

2016 by the Ecological Society of America

DOI: doi:10.1890/15-0204.1


Apex predators are important in protecting biodiversity through top-down influence on food webs. Their loss is linked with competitive release of invasive mesopredators and species extinctions. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) has experienced severe declines over a 15-yr period as a novel transmissible cancer has spread across its current geographic range. We surveyed the mammalian community, using hair traps, across the spatial extent of the devil's progressive population decline. We found increased activity of alien invasive species (feral cats, black rats), and reduced small and medium-sized native prey species in response to the timing of the decline. In areas of long-term devil decline, invasive species comprised a significantly larger proportion of the community. The results provide evidence that the devil plays a keystone role in Tasmania's ecosystem with their decline linked to a shift toward an invasive state and biodiversity loss in one of Australia's most intact faunal communities.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:apex predator, community composition, devil facial tumor disease, feral cat, hair traps, invasive species, mammals, mesopredator release, Tasmanian devil, trophic cascades
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Hollings, TA (Miss Tracey Hollings)
UTAS Author:Jones, M (Professor Menna Jones)
ID Code:116760
Year Published:2016
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP110103069)
Web of Science® Times Cited:26
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2017-05-19
Last Modified:2020-02-05
Downloads:233 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page