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Every day, specialist teams land on islands around the world to track and kill non-native species that were introduced by humans and pose a threat to rare native plants and animals.

Islands are home to some of the world's richest and most vulnerable ecosystems and provide a viable target for eradication because of their limited area and isolation.

But the eradication campaigns, which have gained favour since the 1980s, are not proving to be the simple solutions conservation biologists once believed them to be, says Kevin Krajick in Science.

Exterminating one invader can have unexpected effects on other components of the ecosystem, he explains, and native species may not make a comeback if the environment has been dramatically altered.

As eradication teams tackle larger, more complex islands with multiple invaders, biologists will need to begin analysing the results of these interventions to avoid creating a never-ending succession of them.

Some conservation biologists continue to advocate eradication as a vital tool to combat global extinctions. Yet there is a growing awareness that ecosystems are in constant flux and a full "restoration" may be impossible.

To pursue eradication as a viable strategy, address animal rights activists' concerns and avoid creating future crises, biologists will need to devote more time to studying how species interact before deciding which to tackle and how, concludes Krajick.

Link to full article in Science

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