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BALLOUARD, J.-M., KAUFFMAN, C., BESNARD, A. et al. (2021)

Recent Invaders in Small Mediterranean Islands: Wild Boars Impact Snakes in Port-Cros National Park.

Diversity 2021, 13, 498. https://doi.org/10.3390/d13100498.

Abstract:

Mediterranean islands host unique ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable to invasive species. However, knowledge regarding the precise impact of invasive species on local biodiversity remains limited for many of these systems. Here we report on the negative impacts of invasive wild boars (Sus scrofa) on native snakes on islands in the Mediterranean basin. Capture-mark-recapture was initiated in 2012 on two snake species (Montpellier snake, Malpolon monspessulanus and Ladder snake, Zamenis scalaris) across two islands of Port-Cros National Park. Several wild boars, an invasive species, reached the islands in 2007. They remained confined to small areas of the islands for several years. In Port-Cros, the numbers of wild boars suddenly increased in 2015, and rapidly colonized the whole island damaging vast land surfaces. In Porquerolles, wild boars did not proliferate. This offered an opportunity to examine the impact of wild boar outbreak with a Before-After Control-Impact design (BACI). Snake counts and mark-recapture modeling showed that demographic traits were stable before 2016 for both snake species on both islands. As well as abundance, recruitment, and population growth rate of Montpellier snakes significantly declined where wild boars proliferated but remained constant on the island where they did not. Wild boars probably impacted snake numbers through habitat destruction and direct killing. The rapid decline of snakes (apex predators) and intensive uprooting that strongly damage ground dwelling species (plants, animals) suggest that wild boars represent a serious threat to island biodiversity. As elsewhere around the world, these invasive ungulates proliferate in the Mediterranean basin, they are proficient swimmers and exhibit a remarkably high invasive potential. We recommend vigilance and fast eradication to prevent population outburst; even a few a localized non-proliferating individuals contain the latent potential for devastating outbreaks.

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