Black Rats Are Killing Our Coral Reefs, A New Study Revealed


In what we can call a black rats invasion, these rodents massively reproduce and populate remote island feeding on anything they get, including bird eggs and adult birds. According to a new study carried out by UWA, Lancaster University, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Dalhousie University, black rats’ appetite for birds is killing our coral reefs.

After studying a group of remote once-populated islands in the central Indian Ocean, known as the Chagos Islands, researchers found that the black rats there are causing significant harm to the other life forms out there.

“At Chagos, rats have decimated native bird populations by feeding on eggs and chicks and preventing nesting on some islands, but on islands where there are no rats, there are huge numbers of seabirds,” explained Shaun Wilson from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

According to the study, as the rats are diminishing the bird populations on the studied islands, a devastating chain of events is triggered affecting the ecosystem, including the coral reefs.

Black rats are killing the coral reef by feasting on bird eggs and birds, damaging the ecosystems

“The bird droppings nourish island soils and can be detected in coastal plants. We found that nutrients from bird droppings can also be found in seaweed, sponges, and fish on coral reefs that are adjacent to islands where there are no rats and high bird numbers,” Shaun added.

Near the islands where there are no rats, the scientists also observed a greater diversity of fish and other marine creatures. So, in short, fewer black rats mean more birds, and more birds mean healthier ecosystems and coral reefs, as well, as Phys.Org pointed out.

“Our research highlights that introduced pests, like rats, can have a detrimental effect on both the terrestrial and marine environment and may compromise the health of coral reefs, which are already threatened by global warming,” concluded Shaun.

Also, the researchers highlighted the need for eradicating black rats from affected islands as they are killing the coral reefs, even though indirectly.


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