Guam forests may be ‘irreversibly damaged’ by foreign snake species

Canberra: The introduction of a foreign snake species in Guam’s forests about 60 years ago might have caused irreversible damage to the island’s ecosystem, an Australian researcher revealed on Friday.

Lizzie Wandrag, co-author of a study into the destruction of Guam’s forests by the brown treesnake species, found that within 30 years of its introduction, most of the island’s seed-spreading birds became extinct, something she says will have a profound effect on the future of the local ecosystem.

Wandrag said her team analysed the spread of forest seedlings on Guam and on the nearby snake-free islands of Rota and Saipan, which gave the research team the “perfect comparative opportunity” to witness the firsthand effects of the brown treesnake.

“It has been around 30 years since the brown treesnake eradicated most of Guam’s birds, and it looks like we can already see some impacts in the mature forests,” she told Xinhua news agency.

Wandrag said now that research had identified the effects the brown treesnake has in the local ecosystem, focus have shifted to “considering other ways of spreading seeds in the forests”.

The researcher has urged local governments to act on the issue immediately, warning that the brown treesnake’s appetite for seed-spreading birds could have already “changed the way these forests look” forever.

“Losing native seed dispersers of the landscape could irrevocably change the way these forests look. Introduced species such as the brown treesnake could end up threatening not just local animals, but ultimately entire ecosystems.”