Long term monitoring on Macquarie Island has shown that when rabbit populations were high the probability of albatross breeding dropped by one to two thirds. The studies also revealed a web of interactions between cats, rabbits, vegetation and albatrosses.
Data collected between 1995 and 2014 showed that rabbit numbers increased when feral cats were removed and the effectiveness of myxomatosis declined. Rabbit grazing reduced vegetation and cover for nesting sea birds and soil erosion increased, further affecting nesting opportunities. Albatrosses facing poor nesting options may skip breeding altogether or proceed with reduced likelihood of successfully raising chicks.
Since the eradication of rabbits on the island, vegetation has rapidly recovered, and so has the probability of albatross species breeding successfully.
To read more about the research, and the interplay with climate change, read:
- The Australian Antarctic Division news article or
- The paper by Jaimie B. Cleeland & others in Scientific Reports (May, 2020).