NEWS: Saving the Chagos corals by removing rats

"Killing rats could save coral reefs" is the major scientific breakthrough of the day as published by the BBC and relating to a new Nature article.

Scientists studying the Chagos reefs say there is a direct link between rats and coral ecosystems. Prof. Nick Graham and his team have been working on the Chagos Islands, as part of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science, and have discovered islands with invasive rats are causing huge problems for the associated coral reefs.

As CCT has reported before invasive rats decimate seabird populations and rat infested islands have significantly less to no seabirds. From this new research we now know that this in turn reduces the volume of bird droppings, which is a natural fertiliser for corals.

To protect these delicate marine habitats scientists now advocate eradicating rats from all of the islands.

So what's the answer to the invasive rat problem?

Black rats (Rattus rattus) have been present on the Chagos archipelago since the late 1700s when the archipelago was settled.[1]

CCT is developing a whole archipelago rat eradication programme with the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration and experts such as Prof. Nick Graham. Invasive species, such as rats, are a problem on many of the islands across the Chagos Archipelago and in a recent Conservation Management Planning workshop removal of rats from the archipelago was identified as a top priority for the Administration.

In 2017, CCT announced the first successful rat eradication of a Chagos island. 

"By working together with the Administration and all the experts and scientists connected with the Chagos Archipelago and rat eradication we believe we can eradicate rats from the whole archipelago that will result in seabirds returning to the islands, which in turn helps support the corals reefs." said CCT director, Helen Pitman.


[1]Wenban-Smith, N. and Carter, M. (2016). Chagos: A history; exploration, exploitation, expulsion. Chagos Conservation Trust, London