Impacts of invasive species on ecosystem energy transfer on the Big Island of Hawai'i
Abernethy, Erin Foster
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Invasive species have negative ecological, economic, and health impacts globally, especially on island ecosystems, but their impacts on ecosystem processes, like scavenging, remain largely unknown. Determining the scavenging efficiency of invasives on the carcasses of invasives will reveal how this altered ecosystem process contributes to invasional meltdowns and/or food web stability and whether scavenging on and by invasive species exacerbates or alleviates the negative impacts of invasives. I quantified the use of invasive species carcasses, specifically reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds, by vertebrate scavengers on a highly invaded island ecosystem, the Big Island of Hawai’i. Invasive vertebrate species scavenged 16.0-82.5% of these carcasses, and the percentage of carcasses scavenged by vertebrates compared to other scavenger guilds differed relative to habitat and carcass type. My results provide insight on basic scavenging ecology and suggest that carcasses provide a valuable resource to invasive species that may contribute to invasional meltdown and/or stability.