Optimal approaches for balancing invasive species eradication and endangered species management

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Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 1028-1031
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250763

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Conservation vs. eradication

What's an ecologist to do when an endangered bird lives in an invasive grass? Ecosystems are complicated networks, with one species relying on another, and managing one species in isolation may damage other members of a community. Lampert et al. (see the Perspective by Buckley and Han) looked at the conflict between eradicating a damaging invasive grass species and protecting an endangered bird species that uses the grass as its home. The most effective management and restoration approach focused not on eradicating the invasive grass as quickly as possible but on making changes slowly enough that the birds could adapt. This approach may prove useful in other situations in which active restoration conflicts with other conservation goals.

Science, this issue p. 1028; see also p. 975


Resolving conflicting ecosystem management goals—such as maintaining fisheries while conserving marine species or harvesting timber while preserving habitat—is a widely recognized challenge. Even more challenging may be conflicts between two conservation goals that are typically considered complementary. Here, we model a case where eradication of an invasive plant, hybrid Spartina, threatens the recovery of an endangered bird that uses Spartina for nesting. Achieving both goals requires restoration of native Spartina. We show that the optimal management entails less intensive treatment over longer time scales to fit with the time scale of natural processes. In contrast, both eradication and restoration, when considered separately, would optimally proceed as fast as possible. Thus, managers should simultaneously consider multiple, potentially conflicting goals, which may require flexibility in the timing of expenditures.

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