Invasive rat drives complete collapse of native small mammal communities in insular forest fragments

Jonathan H. Moore, Ana Filipa Palmeirim, Carlos A. Peres, Dusit Ngoprasert, Luke Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


As tropical forests are becoming increasingly fragmented, understanding the magnitude and time frame of biodiversity declines is vital for 21st century sustainability goals. Over three decades, we monitored post-isolation changes in small mammal species richness and abundance within a forest landscape fragmented by the construction of a dam in Thailand.1,2 We observed the near-complete collapse of species richness within 33 years, with no evidence of a recolonization effect across repeatedly sampled islands. Our results further revealed a decline in species richness as island size decreased and isolation time increased, accelerated by the increasing dominance of the ubiquitous Malayan field rat, Rattus tiomanicus. This species was already hyper-abundant on smaller islands in the initial surveys (1992–1994, 66% of individuals) but became monodominant on all islands, regardless of island size, by the most recent survey (2020, 97%). Our results suggest that insular forest fragments are highly susceptible to rapid species loss, particularly due to the competitive nature of Rattus accelerating the rate at which extinction debts are paid. To mitigate these impacts, reducing the extent of habitat degradation, as triggered by fragmentation and exacerbated by isolation time, can help to sustain native biodiversity while averting Rattus hyper-abundance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2997-3004.e2
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number13
Early online date15 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2022


  • extinction debt
  • forest fragmentation
  • habitat loss
  • invasive species
  • island biogeography
  • monodominance
  • Rattus
  • species-area relationship

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