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Title: Invasion ecology of non-native European brown hares and their impact on the endemic Irish hare
Author: Caravaggi, Anthony
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 010X
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2016
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The European hare is a native of open grasslands in Europe and the Asian steppe. The species is a successful invader, and has been introduced to a large number of countries and small islands worldwide. It was introduced to Ireland in the mid-to-late 1800s for field sport. A substantial population was identified during 2005 in Mid-Ulster, a site with no records of introduction. Ecological Niche Modelling described the endemic Irish hare as being ecologically distinct from other mountain hare subspecies, and more similar to the European hare. Models of species-specific habitat use confirmed that the invader and the native are ecologically similar, with comparable niche breadths, and almost complete niche overlap. Under projections of predicted climate change, Irish hare niche space is projected to contract, and that of the European hare expand, by 2070. The range of the European hare in Northern Ireland expanded three-fold between 2005 and 2012-13. Spatial patterns in hare density and abundance describe an invasive-native species replacement process. The European hare has a consolidated core range where it outnumbers the native 5:1, often displacing it entirely. Analyses suggest that the European hare population of Mid-Ulster was introduced ca. 1970, and is dispersing at 0.73 km/year. There is some support for Government intervention (i.e. lethal culling), with a view to eradicating the European hare from Mid-Ulster. Support was strongest (66%) among members of Countryside Alliance Ireland. While support was lower among non-members (44%), systematic engagement and outreach may be effective in appreciably raising levels of support. Invasive European hares represent an immediate ecological threat to the endemic Irish hare. Rapid development and implementation of an invasive Species Action Plan (iSAP) is required if the impacts of the invader are to be effectively mitigated so as to prevent the loss of one of Ireland’s only endemic species.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available