Seabird islands (islands with large populations of seabirds) are crucial to the survival of native animals and plants due to the large subsidies provided by nutrient inputs of marine origin. Seabird predators have devastated seabird populations and drastically altered vegetation processes and ecosystem function all over the world. These predators are now being eradicated on hundreds of islands, but restoration plans usually do not include vegetation and ecosystem processes, nor are these processes monitored. Although we know that many of the impacts of seabird predators on other species are indirect (mediated through changes in nutrient inputs and disturbance by seabirds), the impacts of removing seabird predators on these processes remain unstudied. The implicit assumption is that the removal of predators will result in the recovery of seabird populations and the restoration of seabird island community and ecosystem dynamics.
Despite the many studies of seabird islands, no cross-system comparisons have been done, and we are lacking answers to such basic questions as the extent to which seabird impacts are similar across systems versus determined by system-specific characteristics such as geographic location, moisture regime, or seabird species. This information is crucial for making predictions about the impacts of new invasions or predator eradications. This Research Coordination Network (RCN) will bring together scientists from across the globe to perform cross-system comparisons and syntheses, establish standard methodologies, identify crucial data that are lacking, and develop a conceptual framework for understanding and predicting impacts of seabirds and predators on island functioning, the consequences of their removal, and requirements for restoration of island functioning.
One of the goals of this meeting is to develop a set of guidelines for island restoration. The involvement of managers and members of the public (e.g. island owners and volunteers) is crucial to this effort. As our network develops we will be inviting members of the public to participate in annual meetings; this website will also be used to provide information and allow an exchange of ideas by non-scientists.