Largest rat eradication effort in history complete

The world’s largest rat eradication effort has come to a close. The project, led by the South Georgia Heritage Trust, aims to completely eliminate the invasive pests from the South Georgia Island, a 3900 square kilomefour_col_Rat_bait_containing_an_anticoagulant_poison_being_used_to_eradicate_rats_from_South_Georgia_photo_SGHTter landmass in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The bulk of the eradication process consisted of massive poison drops by helicopter across the island, in a three-stage, 5 year long conservation effort. This project follows the island-wide reindeer eradication that began just several years ago, in an effort to eliminate these highly destructive mammals from the area.

As on many islands around the world, these introduced rats have had a significant impact on the native organisms of South Georgia, including the endemic South Georgia Pipit. The hope is that once both rats and reindeer are removed from the island, the South Georgia flora and fauna can return to a more natural state. Work here in the Lynch Lab will attempt to quantify the recovery of this ecosystem over time. While not cheap, at an estimated cost of £7.6 million the project was much less expensive than previous rat eradication efforts on other islands. Considering the difficulty of removing these pests and the impact that these organisms have on their adopted environment, this is ultimately a small price to pay for the restoration and conservation of this remote island ecosystem.

Photo credit: South Georgia Heritage Trust

Warmest day on record for Antarctic Peninsula

Temperatures recorded on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) reportedly reached 63.5 F (17.5 C) last week. This comes just days after a 63.3 F (17.4 C) day in the region – both of these surpass the the previous high on the AP of 62.8 F (17.1 C) set in 1961. The record breaking event has received significant media exposure, popping up in various places around the interwebs.

While these temperatures are thought to be due to anomalous conditions in the region, this event brings attention to extreme weather events are that have become increasingly common in recent years. Changes in long-term mean temperatures in the region often receive the most attention (with mean winter temperatures having increased by over 5 C since the 1960s), however this increase in weather variance should not be overlooked. These extreme events are often what limit an organism’s ability to persist in a particular environment, and may be crucial in determining species ranges – particularly in ectotherms which rely on external environmental conditions to regulate their body temperature. For these organisms, changes in these extremes may arguably be more important than changes in long-term mean temperatures. While the relative importance of extremes vs. means may be disputed, increasingly attention should be paid to both of these phenomena. As these trends continue, research efforts (including efforts here in the Lynch Lab) will continue to elucidate how these changes, whether long-term means or extremes, are impacting these natural systems, and what we might expect to see as these trends continue into the future.1024px-GISS_temperature_2000-09_lrg10-year average temperature (2000-2009) deviation from 1951-1980 mean. Rapid increases in temperature along the AP (off the tip of South America) are apparent. Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory