Quantifying seabird influence on recovering island ecosystems
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Species that compose island ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to extinctions. In New Zealand alone, since human settlement began around 1285AD, 41% of bird species have been driven to extinction. Seabirds play an important role on land and in terrestrial, intertidal and subtidal zones by subsidizing island ecosystems with guano. Additionally, burrow-nesting seabirds churn up the soil by digging the burrows in which they nest, resulting in significant soil disturbance, also called biopedturbation. Unfortunately, invasion of exotic species is among the leading causes of native species extinctions and consequent transformation of ecosystem function globally. One of the most damaging and widespread groups of introduced mammals are predatory rodents such as rats (Rattus spp.). Seabird populations are highly vulnerable to local extinctions caused by rats and this is exacerbated by life history traits of low adult mortality, delayed reproduction, low fecundity, and long incubation periods found in many seabird species. Invasive species removal in seabird breeding sites is one of the most promising ways to promote seabird conservation.