The long history of human-mediated species introductions has resulted in a multitude of novel interactions around the globe. Many of these interactions have been to the detriment of native species. In New Zealand, the ship rat (Rattus rattus) is considered culpable for the rapid declines in the populations of numerous bird species. While seed masts have been implicated in rat population booms, alternative food resources, such as floral nectar, may play an underappreciated role in rat-bird interactions.
New Zealand aims to eradicate possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and ship rats (Rattus rattus) nationally by 2050. This aim will require more effective tactics for locally eliminating these pests. Therefore, we explored whether possums and rats could be eliminated from large areas using pre-feeding and two applications of sodium fluoroacetate (1080) bait spaced a few months apart.
The diet, population structure and breeding of ship rats (Rattus rattus L.) from Fiordland National Park were assessed from measurements and gut sample analysis of 248 rats trapped between March 2009 and March 2010, following a mast beech seedfall. They consumed many lepidopteran larvae but fewer weta and more vegetative plant matter than in other habitats, as well as beech seed. Birds and mice made up only a relatively small proportion of the diet. A lizard was also confirmed as a prey item of R.
Effective biodiversity conservation in lowland New Zealand requires an understanding of the relative benefits of managing impacts of native forest loss versus controlling invasive species. We used bird count data from 195 locations across mainland northern New Zealand to examine how the abundance and richness of native forest birds varied across wide gradients of native forest cover (c. 0–100%) and intensity of invasive species control (‘eradication’, ‘high-intensity rat and possum’, ‘low-intensity rat and possum’, ‘periodic possum’ and ‘none’).
While invasive rats are demonstrably inimical to indigenous vertebrate species, there has not been unequivocal evidence of benefit to invertebrate communities from management of these invasive mammals in New Zealand forest systems. The present study examined the response of land snail communities to intensive management of ship and Norway rats by sampling paired rainforest blocks, one block of which had been subject to intensive management of rats, while the other block had been without management of invasive rats and thus subject to ambient rodent infestations.
The ship rat invasion of Big South Cape Island/Taukihepa in the 1960s was an ecological catastrophe that marked a turning point for the management of rodents on offshore islands of New Zealand. Despite the importance of this event in the conservation history of New Zealand, and subsequent major advances in rodent eradication and biosecurity, the source and pathway of the rat invasion of Big South Cape Island has never been identified.
Predation at nests contributes importantly to current declines of New Zealand forest birds. We monitored the survival of natural and artificial arboreal nests in small forest remnants south-west of Hamilton, where ship rat (Rattus rattus) and possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) abundances were also being measured in Summer 2008/09. Artificial cup nests (N = 77) were placed in replicated blocks with and without pest control, in both December and January.
New Zealand robins are thought to be vulnerable to poisoning by sodium fluoroacetate (1080), because individual birds found dead after aerial pest control operations have tested positive for 1080. We investigated the impacts of an aerial 1080 operation (preceded by non-toxic prefeeding) to control brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) on the survival and breeding success of a robin population at Silver Peaks, Dunedin environs, South Island, New Zealand. We monitored the survival of individual marked robins and their nesting success before and after the 1080 application.
The seasonal diet of ship rats in a stand of lowland podocarp-rata-broadleaf forest in North Island, New Zealand, was studied from analysis of 173 stomachs, 46 fresh droppings and 10 feeding trials. Arthropods, particularly tree wetas (Order Orthoptera), were the main foods in spring and summer, while drupes, berries and nuts predominated in autumn and winter. Birds were not an important food. Seasonal variations in the diet were related to the seasonal abundance of these foods in the forest