seabirds

Rat eradication is a highly effective tool for conserving biodiversity, but one that requires considerable planning eff ort, a high level of precision during implementation and carries no guarantee of success. Overall, rates of success are generally high but lower for tropical islands where most biodiversity is at risk. We completed a qualitative comparative review on four successful and four unsuccessful tropical rat eradication projects to better understand the factors influencing the success of tropical rat eradications and shed light on how the risk of future failures can be minimised.

In winter 2016, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) eradicated mice (Mus musculus) from the Antipodes Islands located at 49°S 178°E, 760 km south-east of New Zealand’s South Island. Mice were the only mammalian pest species present. They have extensively impacted the abundance and survival of invertebrates, with likely secondary impacts on endemic terrestrial birds and nesting seabird fauna. Public-private partnerships with DOC instigated the project and provided essential financial support.

A successful ground-based eradication of black rats (Rattus rattus) was undertaken on the remote, uninhabited Shiant Isles of north-west Scotland over winter (14 October–28 March) 2015–16. The rat eradication was carried out as part of the Shiants Seabird Recovery Project, which aims to secure long-term breeding habitat for protected seabirds and to attract European storm petrels and Manx shearwaters to nest on the Shiants.

Short website news article about rat eradication on Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean and how bird populations increase without rat predation increasing nutrients from bird guano into the coral reefs; cites letter article in Springer Nature - Seabirds enhance coral reef productivity and functioning inthe absence of invasive rats, Nichaolas A.J. Graham, Shaun K. Wilson, Peter Carr, Andrew S. Hoey, Simon Jennings, M. Aaron MacNeil https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0202-3

Rats contribute to the decline of tropical seabird populations by affecting their breeding success through direct predation of eggs and chicks. When they coexist with other predators, invasive rats may also generate indirect interactions via the changes they impose on the structure of communities and trophic interactions following invasion (‘hyperpredation process’), or when apex predators are eradicated from the ecosystem (‘mesopredator release effect’). Understanding these effects is necessary to implement restoration operations that actually benefit threatened seabird populations.

Seabirds are notoriously sensitive to introduced mammalian predators and eradication programs have benefitted seabird populations and their habitats on numerous islands throughout the world. However, less evidence is available from the tropics as to the benefits of rat eradication. Here, we report the seabird recovery and vegetation dynamics on a small coralline island of the tropical western Indian Ocean, eight years after Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) eradication.

Biotic connectivity between ecosystems can provide major transport of organic matter and nutrients, influencing ecosystem structure and productivity, yet the implications are poorly understood owing to human disruptions of natural flows. When abundant, seabirds feeding in the open ocean transport large quantities of nutrients onto islands, enhancing the productivity of island fauna and flora. Whether leaching of these nutrients back into the sea influences the productivity, structure and functioning of adjacent coral reef ecosystems is not known.