Sunday, 9 December 2012

Fox Invasion Threatens Wave of Extinction in Tasmania


ScienceDaily (Dec. 4, 2012) — The effort to stop the irreversible spread of foxes in Tasmania is at a critical stage with many native species at risk of extinction, new research by University of Canberra ecologists and their collaborators published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology shows.

Using DNA detection techniques developed at the University, the team mapped the presence of foxes in Tasmania, predicted their spread and developed a model of their likely distribution as a blueprint for fox eradication, but swift and decisive action is needed.

University of Canberra professor in wildlife genetics and leader of the team, Stephen Sarre, found foxes are widespread in northern and eastern Tasmania and the model developed by his team forecasts they will spread even further with likely devastating consequences for the island’s wildlife.

“There’s nothing fantastic about foxes being in Tasmania. If we allow them to establish themselves we could see a catastrophic wave of extinction across the island,” Professor Sarre said.

“This research shows foxes are on the verge of becoming irreversibly present in Tasmania,” he said. “Their apparent widespread distribution indicates that the eradication effort is at a critical point and that there is no time to lose.”

Professor Sarre and colleagues used forensic DNA tests combined with collections of fox scats to detect and map the distribution of the predator in Tasmania.

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