History, control, epidemiology, ecology, and economy of the invasion of European rabbits in Chile: a comparison with Australia

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Correa‐Cuadros, Jennifer Paola
Flores-Benner, Gabriela
Muñoz-Rodríguez, Manuel Andrés
Briceño, Cristóbal
Díaz, Miguel
Strive, Tanja
Vásquez, Felipe
Jaksic, Fabián M.
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We reviewed existing studies on the European rabbit in Chile regarding history, control, epidemiology, ecology, and economic impacts, comparing them with Australia’s accumulated knowledge about the same topics. We focused especially on the resulting gaps and challenges to orient efforts toward controlling and managing rabbits in Chile. The European rabbit was first introduced to central Chile in the mideighteenth century and was reported as naturalized by 1884. It is among the seven invasive species that most afect Chilean ecosystems and their productive uses. The strongest rabbit impacts have been reported on Chilean islands and in the mainland’s sclerophyllous forest biome. Released rabbits colonized both Juan Fernández Archipelago in 1935, becoming a harmful species damaging endemic vegetation and nesting bird populations, and Tierra del Fuego Island in 1936, becoming competitors for forage with sheep. The sclerophyllous forest in continental Chile is one of the five Mediterranean ecosystems of the world and one of the 34 critical “hotspots” for conserving the planet’s biodiversity. Here, released rabbits and escapees have changed the spatial distribution of native shrubs and herbs, impeding the regeneration of the native matorral. Overall, the impacts of this species during the last 70 years in Chile have been addressed chiefy from a community-ecological perspective, and applied research is lacking for improving public policies and efficient management of this invader. It is urgent to determine the geographical distribution, population size, and drivers of rabbit dynamics to predict their spread and outbreaks. Also, it is necessary to better understand their effects on Chilean natural ecosystems and agroecosystems to assess their economic impacts on biodiversity and production. In addition, it is essential to research pathogens such as Myxoma virus or Lagovirus in Chile, toward determining their prevalence, virulence, and corresponding rabbit immunity, to estimate and potentially harness any contributions such pathogens could make towards controlling popu-lations through biological agents.
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Oryctolagus cuniculus , Myxomatosis , Myxoma virus , Leporipoxvirus , Rabbit hemorrhagic disease · , Calicivirus , Lagovirus , Invasive species , Population dynamics , Epidemics , Viral diseases , Introduction history , Population control , Ecological impacts , Economic impacts
Correa-Cuadros, J.P., Flores-Benner, G., Muñoz-Rodríguez, M.A. et al. History, control, epidemiology, ecology, and economy of the invasion of European rabbits in Chile: a comparison with Australia. Biol Invasions 25, 309–338 (2023).