Following invasive species removal on Macquarie Island, Tasmania, Australia numerous seabird species are rebounding.
For decades, introduced predators and grazers wreaked havoc on Macquarie Island, deep in the Southern Ocean. Until recently, globally important seabird populations were at immediate risk of being lost and unique sub-Antarctic ecosystems were being destroyed. However, since the last feral cats, rabbits, and rodents were successfully removed, the status of the breeding seabirds has been re-assessed by Birdlife Australia for its national IUCN Red-list of Threatened Australian Birds. The news is very positive.
Birdlife Australia maintains a public national Red-list with up-to-date information on Australian birds and their conservation status. On Macquarie Island, populations of eight bird species have either stabilized or recovered, and direct threats from predation or habitat loss from grazing have been removed. As a result, these eight native species have been deemed less likely to go extinct and their conservation statuses can be down-listed. The species undergoing status changes are the Light-mantled Albatross (from Endangered to Least Concern), Blue Petrel (Critically Endangered to Vulnerable), Antarctic Prion (Endangered to Least Concern), White-headed Petrel (Endangered to Least Concern), Common Diving-Petrel (Vulnerable to Least Concern), and the South Georgian Diving-Petrel (Vulnerable to Least Concern). An additional six seabird species will not have immediate changes in status, but in most cases, encouraging signs of recovery are evident.
Although down-listing at a national level may not dramatically affect global IUCN listing of these species in all cases, this is the single largest down-listing of threatened species ever proposed in Australia. A number may also be down-listed under national legislation, although there are also good reasons that higher threat status should be retained for globally distributed seabirds.
At one point, the seabirds and ecosystems of Macquarie Island were under immediate threat of being lost due to predation and over-grazing. The turnaround following the removal of all invasive animals has been dramatic. The Tasmanian and Australian Governments, together with an international team of experts, has achieved one of the most significant island restoration projects ever undertaken.
A number of the people who worked on the Macquarie Island restoration project, such as Karen Andrew and Finn the Wonder Dog, have since been involved in other island restoration projects with Island Conservation
Featured photo: Snow on Macquarie Island. Credit: Natalie Tapson
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