Changing Planet

Western Mediterranean Island Conservation

I am visiting the Iberian Peninsula this week en route to the 14th Rodens et Spatium conference in Portugal. Today in Valencia I am looking out over the Western Mediterranean basin. This area is steeped in human history, including upon its hundreds of islands. Romans colonised these parts over 2,000 years ago, and like everywhere else in the world, rats followed. One might think that after 2,000 years the islands would have reached a new equilibrium, but a few years ago scientists showed this was not the case – the impact of rats continues to be exerted on vulnerable seabird populations. With Lise Ruffino from Marseille we modelled the population dynamics of the introduced rats on Bagaud Island, and she has more recently shown the benefits of a commitment to island eradications in this region.

Carpobrotus zone on Bagaud Island (Photo: Vincent – Wikipedia)

The commitment to island conservation in this part of the world is strong. The Mediterranean small islands initiative PIM regularly reports on the great work being done. The Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the IUCN is currently chaired from Italy. In the Balearic Islands scientists are working on the threatened Balearic shearwater and on nearby islands other scientists have done much work on the related Yelkouan shearwater. The Europeans in this region have achieved a lot from eradications on some of their islands. In fact it is less commonly known that the first rat eradication in the world was on Les Sept Iles in France in 1951. A new global synthesis of seabirds shows how further eradication of introduced predators from islands could yield massive returns in island conservation benefits.

Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.

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