Corals are species that are very sensitive to changes in the temperature of the ocean, so that, due to global warming, they could become spoiled in a short time. Not in vain, corals have declined by half since the 1980s.
Added to this threat is another one: that of rats, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Lancaster, United Kingdom.
Vulnerable coral reefs
It is not that the rats directly affect the coral, but that they decimate the populations of seabirds . It is estimated that invasive predators such as rats, which feed on the eggs of birds, chickens and even adult birds, decimated seabird populations in 90% of the temperate and tropical island groups of the world.
The analysis has been carried out in a set of remote tropical islands in the central Indian Ocean, the Chagos Islands. According to the lead author of this study published in the journal Nature, Nick Graham:
Seabirds are crucial for these types of islands because they can fly into highly productive open-ocean areas to feed. Then, they return to their island homes where they alight and reproduce, depositing guano (or bird droppings) on the ground. This guano is rich in nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus. Until now, we did not know to what extent this made a difference for adjacent coral reefs.
Once demonstrated how different the islands are from rats than those that are exempt from them, rat eradication should be a conservation priority on the oceanic islands. Getting rid of rats could benefit terrestrial ecosystems and improve the productivity and functioning of coral reefs.