Chew-cards can accurately index invasive rat densities in Mariana Island forests

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Rats (Rattus spp.) are likely established on 80–90% of the world’s islands and represent one of the most damaging and expensive biological invaders. Effective rat control tools exist but require accurate population density estimates or indices to inform treatment timing and effort and to assess treatment efficacy. Capture-mark-recapture data are frequently used to produce robust density estimates, but collecting these data can be expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. We tested a potentially cheaper and easier alternative, chew-cards, as a count-based (quantitative) index of invasive rat densities in tropical forests in the Mariana Islands, an archipelago in the western North Pacific Ocean. We trialed chew-cards in nine forest grids on two Mariana Islands by comparing the proportion of cards chewed to capture-mark-recapture density estimates and manipulated rat densities to test whether the relationship was retained. Chew-card counts were positively correlated with rat capture-mark-recapture density estimates across a range of rat densities found in the region. Additionally, the correlation between the two sampling methods increased with the number of days chew-cards were deployed. Specifically, when chew-cards were deployed for five nights, a 10% increase in the proportion of cards chewed equated to an estimated increase in rat density of approximately 2.4 individuals per ha (R2 = 0.74). Chew-cards can provide a valid index of rat densities in Mariana Island forests and are a cheaper alternative to capture-mark-recapture sampling when relative differences in density are of primary interest. New cost-effective monitoring tools can enhance our understanding and management of invaded islands while stretching limited resources further than some conventional approaches, thus improving invasive species management on islands.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Chew-cards can accurately index invasive rat densities in Mariana Island forests
Series title NeoBiota
DOI 10.3897/neobiota.74.80242
Volume 74
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Pensoft
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 28 p.
First page 29
Last page 56
Country Guam, Mariana Islands
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