Endangered Species Sometimes Threatened During Eradication of Invasive Species

First Posted: Jun 01, 2014 08:05 AM EDT

Sometimes when environmental agencies or activist groups work to rid an area of an invasive species, it can affect the well being of endangered species as well. A prime example is one of the California Clapper Rail.

This bird was listed as an endangered species on October 13, 1970. It's exclusively located in San Francisco and relies on salt marsh cordgrass - an invasive plant species that environmentalists are looking to eradicate. They use the cordgrass for a nesting habitat. If the cordgrass is eliminated then it will affect the Clapper Rail's living situation, and ultimately its population.

A recent study led by Adam Lampert of the University of California, Davis chronicled this current issue with the California Clapper Rail and suggested ways to both effectively control invasive species populations while preserving that of the endangered species.

The Invasive Spartina Project seeks to preserve California's extraordinary coastal biological resources through the elimination of the salt marsh cordgrass (otherwise known as Spartina). This species is a highly aggressive invader that affects the physical structure and biological composition of the state's tidal marshes, mudflats, and creeks. The researchers of the UC Davis study believe that this project is moving too fast, and they have a solution for it.

"Just thinking from a single-species standpoint doesn't work," said paper co-author and UC-Davis environmental scientist Alan Hastings, in this National Science Foundation press release. "The whole management system needs to take longer, and you need to have much more flexibility in the timing of budget expenditures over a longer time-frame."

To help propose a solution to the issue, the scientists combined both biological and economic data on the California Clapper Rail and Spartina in order to develop a modeling framework to balance conflicting management goals. Their proposal of less intensive treatment over a longer period of time both saves money and aligns with the time scale of natural processes. The UC Davis study, "Optimal approaches for balancing invasive species eradication and endangered species management," was published in the journal Science on Friday.

The researchers hope that their proposal can provide a cost-effective way for eliminating Spartina, while keeping the California Clapper Rail from being totally deprived of the salt marsh cordgrass.

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