Release animals that modify landscapes (e.g. ecological engineers)
Overall effectiveness category No evidence found (no assessment)
Number of studies: 0
Background information and definitions
Some species modify landscapes (‘ecosystem engineers’) through browsing, grazing, trampling (e.g. African elephants Loxodonta africana) or intentionally redesigning the physical environment (e.g. European beavers Castor fiber). African elephants maintain open wooded grasslands through damage to trees, which increases crevice availability and possibly insect prey for the arboreal gecko Lygodactylus keniensis (Pringle 2008), while black-tailed prairie dog Cynomys ludovicianus and European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus burrows provide habitat for reptiles (Kretzer & Cully 2001, Bravo et al. 2009). Reintroducing ecosystem engineers where they have become locally extinct may support reptile species that depend on the habitats that these species provide.
In some situations (e.g. where species lost from landscapes have gone extinct) releasing replacement species may be the only option. For example, giant tortoises may be introduced to islands to restore habitat and ecosystem function in the place of the extinct native species (Griffiths et al. 2009). However, releasing non-native species is an inherently risky process, and the potential for negative consequences caused by such releases should be carefully considered beforehand.
Bravo L.G., Belliure J. & Rebollo S. (2009) European rabbits as ecosystem engineers: warrens increase lizard density and diversity. Biodiversity and Conservation, 18, 869–885.
Griffiths C.J., Jones C.G., Hansen D.M., Puttoo M., Tatayah R.V., Müller C.B. & Harris S. (2010) The use of extant non‐indigenous tortoises as a restoration tool to replace extinct ecosystem engineers. Restoration Ecology, 18, 1–7.
Kretzer J.E. & Cully Jr J.F. (2001) Effects of black-tailed prairie dogs on reptiles and amphibians in Kansas shortgrass prairie. The Southwestern Naturalist, 171–177.
Pringle R.M. (2008) Elephants as agents of habitat creation for small vertebrates at the patch scale. Ecology, 89, 26–33.