The removal of invasive species from islands is one of the most effective conservation actions available today with impacts beyond native plants and animals, benefiting island communities, protecting food and water supplies, and increasing climate resilience in nearshore coral reefs. *


Invasive vertebrate species can impact local island economies by threatening important food sources with crop damage and contamination, and by devastating natural landscapes and native species which island communities rely on for tourism. Restoration can improve food security for local communities and the quality of the tourism experiences, as well as provide education, training, and employment opportunities in the field of invasive species management.


Invasive vertebrates can be reservoirs for zoonotic diseases which are either transmitted directly to humans or through contamination of food, soil, and water. Invasive species can also degrade water sources that local communities rely on. By removing invasive species from islands, the risk of spreading diseases and pathogens can be reduced and even eliminated.


On inhabited islands and other islands utilized by communities, invasive species such as rats can jeopardize food sources, food storage, and natural heritage. Through the removal of invasive species, local communities can reduce the negative impacts to local food sources and natural heritage and learn about food management and biosecurity practices.


Research has proven that invasive species removal protects threatened and endangered island species, and channels beneficial nutrients to the nearshore marine ecosystems. Increased nutrient inputs lead to marine ecosystem recovery and benefits for corals, microorganisms, fisheries, and megafauna.


Invasive herbivores can significantly alter natural landscapes through de-vegetation, increased erosion, or soil compaction, resulting in changes in carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. The removal of invasive species can bolster the resilience of island ecosystems by reducing natural resource degradation.


The removal of invasive species from islands always requires multi-entity partnerships to plan, implement, and monitor restoration activities. The global scope of invasive species impacts on islands demands that countries share skills and technologies to increase the scale and pace of islands restoration.

*de Wit et al. 2019  “Invasive vertebrate eradications on islands as a tool for implementing global sustainable development goals.”

Coral reefs are incredibly diverse, making up less than 1% of the Earth’s surface but home to almost a quarter of all marine species. Due to the increasing threats of warming waters and ocean acidification, coral reefs are in urgent need of protection.

Although a variety of conservation tools will be needed to help keep coral reefs healthy, new research by Graham et al. (2018) has identified the removal of invasive species from islands as one of them. Their research found that rat-free islands with healthy seabird populations are linked to increased fish biomass and the resilience of corals to warming waters.

Restoring island seabird populations through the removal of invasive species has the potential to be a game-changing conservation intervention, extending beyond the terrestrial environment to revive and restore nearshore marine ecosystems and coral reefs. Alongside our partners, Island Conservation is working to better understand this connection and solidify the link between invasive species removal and coral reef conservation by restoring Ulithi and Palmyra Atolls.