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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Worldwide, native species increasingly contend with the interacting stressors of habitat fragmentation and invasive species, yet their combined effects have rarely been examined. Direct negative effects of invasive omnivores are well documented, but the indirect effects of resource competition or those caused by predator avoidance are unknown. Here we isolated and examined the independent and interactive effects of invasive omnivorous Black rats (Rattus rattus) and forest fragment size on the interactions between avian predators and their arthropod prey. Our study examines whether invasive omnivores and ecosystem fragment size impact: 1) the vertical distribution of arthropod species composition and abundance, and 2) the vertical profile of foraging behaviors of five native and two non-native bird species found in our study system. We predicted that the reduced edge effects and greater structural complexity and canopy height of larger fragments would limit the total and proportional habitat space frequented by rats and thus limit their impact on both arthropod biomass and birds’ foraging behavior. We experimentally removed invasive omnivorous Black rats across a 100-fold (0.1 to 12 ha) size gradient of forest fragments on Hawai‘i Island, and paired foraging observations of forest passerines with arthropod sampling in the 16 rat-removed and 18 control fragments. Rat removal was associated with shifts in the vertical distribution of arthropod biomass, irrespective of fragment size. Bird foraging behavior mirrored this shift, and the impact of rat removal was greater for birds that primarily eat fruit and insects compared with those that consume nectar. Evidence from this model study system indicates that invasive rats indirectly alter the feeding behavior of native birds, and consequently impact multiple trophic levels. This study suggests that native species can modify their foraging behavior in response to invasive species removal and presumably arrival through behavioral plasticity.

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