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