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News for DoC: Study finds introduced species may be good for environment 

Summarised by Centrist

New research published in Science suggests that the practice of eradicating animals, particularly non-native species, to protect plant species may not be an effective conservation strategy and can come with significant costs. The study, conducted by researchers from Aarhus University and the University of Oxford, compared the effects of large mammal species listed as native and introduced in 221 studies from around the world. The researchers found that both native and non-native large herbivores had indistinguishable effects on the abundance and diversity of native plants. 

Instead, the traits of the large animals of a particular region, such as body size and feeding habits, influenced their impact on plant communities. The ecological roles and functional traits of animals rather than their nativeness is more important when considering conservation strategies.

The report quotes study co-author Dr Jeppe Kristensen:

“While one elephant can push over a mid-sized tree, 50 red deer cannot. You can’t total the body mass to understand the effect of animal presence on the landscape; you have to consider the effect of each animal species present,” he says.

The researchers suggest that replacing extinct species with animals that perform similar ecosystem functions, regardless of their native status, could be a more effective approach to conservation. 

This study challenges the common practice of spending millions of dollars on animal eradication efforts based on the perception of animals not belonging to certain areas, even when some of these species are endangered in their native habitats.

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