Invasive rodents have a detrimental impact on terrestrial ecosystem functioning, this is often exacerbated on small islands. Rat eradication campaigns are often used to deal with this environmental perturbation given their classification as invasive species. Studies assessing the effects of rodent control at ecosystem scale are scarce and thus little is known about the subsequent functional response of vegetation subsequent to rat control. In this work, we use remote sensing to assess the effects of black rat (Rattus rattus) eradication on Mediterranean vegetation productivity in the Sa Dragonera Islet, Mallorca (Spain). Rats feed on seeds, sprouts, and leaves of woody vegetation and hence we expect primary production to increase nine years after the rodenticide campaign. The Break Detection approach for additive season and trend (BFAST method) was adopted to examine changes in vegetation density before and after the eradication campaign in Sa Dragonera Islet (Balearic Islands), using a temporal series of monthly NDVI data extracted from Landsat imagery. The same temporal trends were examined for a control zone where no rat eradication took place, in order to control for weather-driven changes. The results of this study revealed changes across the 21-year monthly NDVI time series. However, the dates, magnitude, and trend of these changes could not be explicitly attributed to the action of rats, when compared to the historical changes on the islet and the changes found to co-occur within the control zone. These finding could, perhaps, be explained by the high resilience of Mediterranean shrubs to browsing including that of rat invasion. However, the results from the study appear to show that rat damage on specific plant species, with little contribution to global NDVI values, would be overshadowed by the effects of broader environmental factors in this remote sensing approach. The results suggest that the current passive restoration scheme imposed following eradication is not sufficient for effective ecosystem restoration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This article has been supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science through the INCRE-MENTO coordinated project (RTI2018-094202-BC21 and RTI2018-094202-A-C22), ES was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad (MINECO) through a Ramon y Cajal agreement (RYC-2016-21120). Author M.I.-Á. was supported by PhD fellowships CGL2015-70449-R/BES-2016 from Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO, Spain).
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- BFAST method
- invasive species
- Landsat Time Series
- rodent eradication
- Invasive species
- Rodent eradication