Project: Conservation and restoration of degraded insular biodiversity: impacts of the removal of introduced mammals on the dynamics of infectious diseases in seabirds across islands of the Southern Ocean

Acronym REMOVE_DISEASE (Reference Number: BiodivRestore-332)
Duration 01/04/2022 - 01/04/2025
Project Topic The project aims at exploring the impact of the removal of introduced species on islands on the dynamics of pathogens and biodiversity. Introduced mammal species on islands, such as rats, mice and cats, are highly responsible for biodiversity loss via the extinction of native populations. This is critical at a time when other factors of global change, such as fishery pressure and climate change for seabirds, also contribute to threaten wild species, leading to high threats to populations worldwide. Ambitious restauration projects based on the removal of introduced species from islands are being implemented, but they rarely consider the potential role of pathogens as a threat to biodiversity, despite their potential importance. In densely breeding species, such as seabirds, the threat posed by introduced pathogens is increasingly recognized, and introduced mammal species are suspected to be playing key roles as maintenance reservoirs or vectors of transmission, such as on Amsterdam Island, where yearly epizooties of avian cholera kill thousands of nestlings. In this project, we thus aim at exploring the effects of the removal of introduced species on islands on the dynamics of exposure of native threatened species to infectious agents. Moreover, we will explore the mechanisms by which those changes may occur and their potential long term implications. By including avian scavengers as sentinel species in epidemiological surveys pre- and post-eradication, we will maximize our ability to detect effects. In parallel, we will investigate how consideration of these epidemiological aspects could benefit the implementation of large scale biodiversity restauration projects. This timely project will benefit from interdisciplinary approaches, independently funded restauration efforts, and from being conducted on islands which have been the subject of detailed monitoring and conservation biology studies by the international partner teams. It will focus on three islands of the Southern Ocean, Amsterdam Island (French Southern and Antarctic Lands), Marion Island (South Africa) and New Island (Falkland Islands), which host large threatened seabird populations of albatrosses, penguins and burrowing petrels suffering from introduced mammal species. Stakeholders will notably be government environmental agencies, such as the National Nature Reserve of the French Southern lands, and non-governmental organisations, such as BirdLife and Falklands Conservation, which are critically involved in biodiversity conservation. The direct involvement of stakeholders in an international setting will contribute to achieving the objectives of the project and its broad implications: the findings could highlight how the removal of introduced species from islands can directly benefit the conservation of biodiversity by relieving native species from predation pressure from those species, but also indirectly via its effect on disease agents.
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Network BiodivRestore
Call BiodivRestore Transnational Cofund Call 2020-2021

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Centre national de la recherche scientifique/UNiversity of Montpellier/Institut de la Recherche et du Développment/SupAgro/École Pratique des Hautes Études Coordinator France
2 Instituto Universitário Partner Portugal
3 University of Cape Town Partner South Africa
4 Nelson Mandela University Partner South Africa
5 BirdLife South Africa Partner South Africa
6 Réserve Naturelle Nationale des Terres Australes Partner France
7 Falklands Conservation Partner United Kingdom
8 BirdLife International Partner United Kingdom