|Project Name||Longitudinal monitoring of terrestrial diversity to assess the effects of the planned mouse eradication on Marion Island, and bait and mouse trials to inform further planning for the Mouse-Free Marion Project|
|Project Manager||Dr Anton Wolfaardt|
|Collaborator||Prof. Michelle Greve|
|M79 Field Assistant||Elsa van Ginkel|
|M80 Field Assistant||Camilla Smyth|
The Mouse-Free Marion Project is a partnership between the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and BirdLife South Africa, working towards an operation to eradicate invasive mice from Marion Island.
The mice, which were introduced accidentally some 200 years ago, have caused great harm to the ecology of Marion Island. They feed on indigenous invertebrates, damage vegetation, and have more recently started eating seabird chicks. As a result, the mice are considered to be a major pest to the island. If they are not removed, the ecosystem of the island will continue to deteriorate, and they will likely cause most of the seabirds on the island to become locally extinct. These seabirds will be lost to the island forever.
In order to monitor how the island recovers after the mice have been removed, we are collecting data on aspects of the island that we expect to improve once the mice are gone. These include the vegetation and invertebrates. Colleagues working on other projects are collecting similar data on seabirds.
The reason why it is important to collect this data before the eradication operation is so that we can compare and monitor how the island changes (improves) as a result of the eradication operation – comparing the island’s vegetation and invertebrate features before and after the operation.
More about your plans for this takeover?
The project will make use of data that have already been collected over many years, primarily through the various long-term monitoring projects that have been undertaken at Marion Island over many years. The focus of our work currently is to fill some pre-eradication (baseline) data on vegetation and invertebrates. This particular work was initiated during the 2022/23 period, and will continue in 2023/24. The takeover period will be used to provide training and orientation to the new Marion80 overwintering team member (Camilla Smyth) and for the current Marion79 Mouse-Free Marion overwintering team member (Elsa van Ginkel) to hand over the field-work responsibilities to Camilla.
The work includes standard invertebrate and vegetation survey techniques to establish a baseline that can be used to monitor how these ecological parameters change following the eradication of invasive mice. These surveys will repeat and build on historical surveys that have been undertaken on the island previously.
We will also be undertaking further bait trials and weather monitoring to help inform the planning of the baiting operation.
Latest takeover update from the island (on 26 April 2023)
Check out the Mouse-Free Marion Website!
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Text and images supplied by Dr Anton Wolfaardt.
Featured image: The MFM takeover 2023 team. L-R: Dr Anton Wolfaardt (MFM Project Manager), Camilla Smyth (M80 MFM Field Assistant) and Elsa van Ginkel (M79 MFM Field Assistant). Photo taken on Marion Island, April 2023.
Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI DPS Node), 05 May 2023