This week at Macquarie Island: 10 January 2020

Vegetation recovery on Macquarie Island

Vegetation Recovery on Macquarie Island

Since the remarkably successful eradication of introduced pest rabbits and rodents from Macquarie Island, carried out as the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (MIPEP) from 2010 to its conclusion with a confirmed free status in 2014, the recovery of the vegetation and other aspects of the natural environment on Macca has been fantastic to see. I was lucky to see the island in 2010 immediately prior to the commencement of MIPEP when the rabbit damage was at its worst, again in 2014-15 a few years after the large majority of the rabbits had been eradicated, and now again this year.

Here are some photos to show the changes that are bringing joy to all who know and love the island and satisfaction to all who were involved in the MIPEP. In passing, let me once again pay credit to the dog handlers, rabbit hunters, and the wonderful dogs who really did the “hard yards” from 2011 to 2014, criss-crossing the island in all weathers, to ensure that the very last rabbit really had been removed.

The first five photos show the vegetation around the Sandy Bay tourist boardwalk going up to the viewing platform at the royal penguin colony on the east coast, with photos take in 2010, 2014, and last week. In 2010, in the first two photos (with the current viewing platform under construction), the Macquarie Island daisy (Pleurophyllum hookeri) and the tussock grass (Poa foliosa) have been eaten down to just above ground level within a centimetre of their lives. In the third photo taken in 2014, the tussock grass is recovering well (as was the Pleurophyllym, not shown), and the fourth and fifth photos taken now show luxuriant tussock grass, Pleurophyllum, and Macquarie Island cabbage (Stilbocarpa polaris).

The last four photos show current recovered vegetation on the west coast behind Langdon Point on the Featherbed Track and near Bauer Bay. These were areas of severe rabbit damage in 2010. The tussock grass was eaten right down and in place just consisted of apparently dead root mass clumps. The only locations where Stilbocarpa and Pleurophyllum were growing were inaccessible places on rock stacks where the rabbits could not get at them. What a change!

In closing I would like to pass on the thoughts of all of us on station here, to everyone at home who has been affected by the terrible fires.

Ivor Harris, Station Leader

Grazed vegetation nearly to the ground
Sandy Bay tourist boardwalk 2010, Pleurophyllum and tussock grass eaten right down…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Colony of penguins next to grazed vegetation
Sandy Bay tourist viewing platform under construction in 2010, showing tussock grass…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
green vegetation along a boardwalk
Sandy Bay tourist boardwalk in 2014, tussock grass recovering well
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Lush vegetation of plants and grasses
Sandy Bay tourist boardwalk in 2020 showing luxuriant Stilbocarpa, Pleurophyllum, and tussock…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Lush green vegetation along boardwalk
Sandy Bay tourist boardwalk in 2020 showing flourishing cover of flowering Pleurophyllum.
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Green vegetation along gully and hills
The walking track down to Bauer Bay in 2020 showing fantastic regrowth…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Gentoo penguins and green vegetation
Near Featherbed track on west coast in 2020 whilst counting gentoo penguin…
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
Green vegetation and two elephant seals
Beautiful vegetation and lounging elephant seals near the Featherbed track, 2020
(Photo: Ivor Harris)
vegetation and small lake
Beautiful vegetation around a small lake near the Featherbed track, 2020
(Photo: Ivor Harris)