Giant tortoises show rewilding can work

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Exotic species can be used to restore important functions in ecosystems that were lost following the extinction of key species, according to a new study of giant tortoises on a small island in the Indian Ocean. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol.

‘Rewilding with taxon substitutes’, the intentional introduction of exotic species to fulfil key functions in ecosystems following the loss of recently extinct species, is highly controversial, partly due to a lack of rigorous scientific studies.

In a paper published today in Current Biology, Christine Griffiths of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and colleagues present the first empirical evidence that rewilding can work.

Exotic giant Aldabra tortoises, Aldabrachelys gigantea, were introduced to Ile aux Aigrettes, a 25-hectare island off Mauritius, in 2000 to disperse the slow-growing ebony Diospyros egrett

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