Rabbits wrought untold damage to Australian landscapes, but rabbit biological controls have been incredibly successful in not only transforming primary production in many areas but also in triggering environmental recovery across massive areas of Australia. They are the conclusions after reading a recently published paper in ‘Ecological Restoration’, the Journal of the Society for Ecological Restoration.
The ‘take-home’ messages are:
- Rabbit bio-controls have been incredibly effective in reducing rabbit numbers.
- Reducing rabbit densities allows vegetation to recover, and that leads to the recovery of native fauna.
- Reducing rabbit densities is also a driver of the long-term reduction of feral predators like cats and foxes.
- The effectiveness of bio-controls wanes over time, and new ones will be needed.
- On their own, biological controls do not keep rabbit numbers low enough to stop them determining which plant species get to grow and which don’t.
It has been a tremendous success story – probably one of the most environmentally beneficial programs in Australian history. It is a credit to the many researchers and investors involved and their commitment over many decades, and to the thousands of land managers who have played their role alongside the release of the bio-controls.
It also reminds us of the importance of ongoing research into new control techniques and the necessity to follow-up bio-control with traditional measures, like warren destruction and baiting, to truly safeguard our environment.
Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia have been pleased to play a small part in helping the authors (Graeme Finlayson, Pat Taggart and Brian Cooke) and ensuring there is easy access to their work.
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