Severity of the Effects of Invasive Rats on Seabirds: A Global Review

Abstract: Invasive rats are some of the largest contributors to seabird extinction and endangerment world- wide. We conducted a meta-analysis of studies on seabird–rat interactions to examine which seabird phyloge- netic, morphological, behavioral, and life history characteristics affect their susceptibility to invasive rats and to identify which rat species have had the largest impact on seabird mortality. We examined 94 manuscripts that demonstrated rat effects on seabirds. All studies combined resulted in 115 independent rat–seabird in- teractions on 61 islands or island chains with 75 species of seabirds in 10 families affected. Seabirds in the family Hydrobatidae and other small, burrow-nesting seabirds were most affected by invasive rats. Laridae and other large, ground-nesting seabirds were the least vulnerable to rats. Of the 3 species of invasive rats, Rattus rattus had the largest mean impact on seabirds followed by R. norvegicus and R. exulans; nevertheless, these differences were not statistically significant. Our findings should help managers and conservation prac- titioners prioritize selection of islands for rat eradication based on seabird life history traits, develop testable hypotheses for seabird response to rat eradication, provide justification for rat eradication campaigns, and identify suitable levels of response and prevention measures to rat invasion. Assessment of the effects of rats on seabirds can be improved by data derived from additional experimental studies, with emphasis on understudied seabird families such as Sulidae, Phalacrocoracidae, Spheniscidae, Fregatidae, Pelecanoididae, Phaethontidae, and Diomedeidae and evaluation of rat impacts in tropical regions. 

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