The ways in which invasive organisms influence native ecosystems remain poorly understood. For example, feral cane toads Bufo marinus have spread extensively through tropical Australia over the last 70 years, but assessments of their ecological impact remain largely anecdotal. We conducted experimental trials to examine the effect of cane toad presence on invertebrate fauna in relatively small (2.4 × 1.2 m) outdoor enclosures on a floodplain near Darwin in the wet-dry tropics. Toads significantly reduced invertebrate abundance and species richness, but only to about the same degree as did an equivalent biomass of native anurans. Thus, if toads simply replaced native anurans, the offtake of invertebrates might not be substantially different from that due to native anurans before toad invasion. However, our field surveys suggest that toads cause a massive (fourfold) increase in total amphibian biomass. The end result is that cane toads act as a massive nutrient sink in the floodplain ecosystem because they consume vast numbers of invertebrates but (unlike native frogs) are largely invulnerable to predation by frog-eating predators.
- invasive species