Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Rapid recovery of vegetation following aerial poison baiting on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island

Justine Shaw, Aleks Terauds and Dana Bergstrom of the Australian Antarctic Division have studied what's been happening to the vegetation at Australia's Macquarie Island after the poison bait drops that commenced last year to remove European Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, Black or Ship Rats Rattus rattus and House Mice Mus musculus, publishing their findings this month in the journal Ecological Management & Restoration.

The paper's summary follows

"Introduced rabbits have severely impacted the terrestrial ecosystem of sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.  Here we describe first observations of rapid recovery of an important plant species following the commencement of a vertebrate pest eradication plan.  The tussock grass Poa foliosa, a major component of the Macquarie Island landscape, has been severely impacted by rabbit grazing with large-scale reductions in cover across the island observed at times over the last 50 years.  Preliminary aerial baiting for rabbits and rodents commenced in winter 2010, and within 6 months, we observed substantial regrowth of tussock grass.  The rapid re-emergence of this grass over such a short time period following localised removal of rabbits has positive implications for the island's recovery and provides insight for restoration monitoring."

Poa foliosa provides important breeding habitat for many seabirds on Macquarie Island, including the ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris and several species of burrowing petrels. 

A Black-browed Albatross chick among  tussock grass on Macquarie's coastal slopes  in 2003
Photograph by Aleks Terauds

No rodents have been seen since this year's complete-island bait drop by the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) on "Macca", and only a few remaining rabbits have been hunted down and killed post-drop (click here).


Shaw, J., Terauds, A. & Bergstrom, D. 2011.  Rapid commencement of ecosystem recovery following aerial baiting on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.  Ecological Management & Restoration 12: 241-244.

With thanks to Justine Shaw and Aleks Terauds for information and photograph.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 3 December 2011