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Vegetation status on Nishi-jima Island (Ogasawara) before eradication of alien herbivore mammals: rapid expansion of an invasive alien tree, Casuarina equisetifolia (Casuarinaceae)

Abe, Tetsuto, Yasui, Takaya, Makino, Shun’ichi
Journal of forest research 2011 v.16 no.6 pp. 484-491
Casuarina equisetifolia, Zoysia tenuifolia, aerial photography, ecosystem management, flora, forests, goats, grasslands, indigenous species, introduced species, invasive species, planning, rats, trees, vegetation cover
Insular ecosystems can be dramatically affected by alien species, and records of pre-eradication status are essential to evaluate the effects of eradicating alien species. Nishi-jima Island is a small island of the Ogasawara group on which the first program of complete eradication of alien herbivorous mammals (black rats and feral goats) will be conducted. After eradication, the government plans to conduct ecosystem restoration on the island. This paper reports the angiosperm flora and vegetation of Nishi-jima Island before eradication of the rats and goats, with the objective of aiding ecosystem management after the eradication. Our surveys indicate that vegetation cover by the alien tree, Casuarina equisetifolia has expanded compared with its distribution in a 1974 aerial photograph of the island. The predominant vegetation in 2006 was C. equisetifolia forests and Zoysia tenuifolia grasslands, with fragmented native tree vegetation. The flora of the island comprised 69 angiosperm species (50 indigenous species) of which 30% were endemic, far less than for the Ogasawara Islands as a whole (45%). However, several populations of endangered plants remain. To restore the native ecosystem on Nishi-jima, eradication of C. equisetifolia is important in addition to eradication of alien herbivorous mammals.