A number of animals native to Ireland may face extinction if foreign invading species are not controlled, new research suggests.
A two-year study suggests that the Irish hare, red squirrel and red deer could be wiped out in Ireland and shows that the country’s smallest mammal, the pygmy shrew, has “completely vanished” in some areas.
The study entitled ‘Invasional meltdown’ was conducted by scientists at the Queen’s University Belfast.
The research showed “local extinction” and “rapid and complete” replacement of the pygmy shrew in certain areas due to the introduction of new foreign species.
“The introduction of alien mammals to Ireland over the last 100 years has had major detrimental effects, threatening our indigenous habitats and species,” said lead researcher Professor Ian Montgomery.
“The American grey squirrel, for example, passes a deadly virus to native red squirrels, whilst European hares threaten the ecological and genetic integrity of the native Irish hare through competition and interbreeding”.
The study is published in the international scientific journal Biological Invasions.