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Macquarie Island faces an 'ecosystem meltdown' after conservation efforts backfire, scientists warn

Attempts by conservationists to eradicate cats in order to save birds on the sub-Antarctic island has caused an explosion in the rabbit population and damage to plantlife that will cost £11m to repair, scientists say

Source:  Copyright 2009, Guardian
Date:  January 12, 2009
Byline:  David Adam
Original URL: Status ONLINE

It is a cautionary tale of recklessness, good intentions and the ecological mayhem that can result when people interfere with the delicate balance of Mother Nature: scientists today catalogued the unfortunate series of biological events caused by human meddling and alien species that has devastated the once pristine sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

Lessons must be learnt on all sides, the scientists say, because well-intentioned attempts by conservation experts to fix the island have so far made the situation worse. Life across almost half the island, a World Heritage site, has been affected, and experts are now weighing up a £11m rescue plan.

Dana Bergstrom, of the Australian Antarctic Division said: "The big lesson is to question all assumptions made in managing and removing alien species from special areas, because there could be unintended consequences."

Things began to go wrong on Macquarie Island, halfway between Australia and Antarctica, ...

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