Island ecosystem once destroyed by rats increases biomass by 2,000%

October 18, 2023

Lloyd Lee,, October 1, 2023

Redonda, a small, uninhabited Caribbean island that is part of the commonwealth of Antigua and Barbuda, is on the path to recovering its native ecosystem after being destroyed by invasive species nearly a century ago.

The tiny island of Redonda, about a mile long, was formerly a haven for several species of seabirds.

Its attraction, particularly to birds, such as Brown Boobies and Masked Boobies, made the island a rich source of guano — or seabird excrement — which could be turned into fertilizer and gunpowder.

In the 19th century, the British government deployed more than 100 miners to begin extracting several tons of guano per year, according to Earth Island Journal.

Humans deserted the island around the 1930s, but the mining operations left behind invasive species, mainly domestic goats and stowaway black rats, that wreaked havoc on the island’s ecosystem.

Soon, the island became a barren landscape, earning the nickname “the rock” from adjacent locals, BBC reported.

“Much like they have done elsewhere in the world, the rats and goats contributed to the deforestation and desertification of Redonda and are blamed for the extinction of the endemic skink and iguana, as well as the extirpation of the Antiguan burrowing owl on the island,” according to the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), an Antigua and Barbuda NGO. “By 2012, the ecosystem was so severely degraded that even the feral goats were starving to death.”

In 2016, environmental groups such as EAG launched restoration efforts to bring back the local plant life and animal species native to the island.

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