Weeding an entire island to protect a globally important coastal ebony forest

The beautiful Mauritian island of Ile aux Aigrettes is only 26ha and lies just 850m offshore. Its proximity to shore leaves it particularly vulnerable to invasive plant species that threaten its coastal ebony forest, the last remnants of which are found on Ile aux Aigrettes.

To protect its native species, local workers have weeded the entire island, completing an intensive restoration project supported by the Sir Peter Scott Fund of the Species Survival Commission.

With the weeding completed, almost all of the island’s forests have been restored and now require only periodic weeding, supported by income from the island's ecotourism. Weeding on Ile aux Aigrettes must continue indefinitely due to reinvasion of exotic weed species from the mainland by birds, wind, and people, but will reduce with time.

The weeded area was planted with native and endemic vegetation raised at the Ile aux Aigrettes Nursery. A total of 45,000 plants from the island’s native plant nursery were used for the replanting in the whole area. The island reserve now holds 20% of the world’s population of the Endangered endemic Pink Pigeon ( Columba mayeri) and was used for the re-introduction of the Mauritius Kestrel (Falco punctatus) which is also endemic and Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Despite human-induced degradation on the islet over the last 400 years, it has the best-preserved native vegetation cover amongst all the coralline islands of the Mascarenes. The island was declared a Nature Reserve in 1965, but its vegetation continued to degrade due to continual invasion by alien weeds and illegal woodcutting.

For more information please contact:

Andrew McMullin, IUCN Species Programme Communications Officer
Tel: +41 (0)22 999 0153
Email: mcmullinaiucn.org

SSC Indian Ocean Island Plant Specialist Group

Sir Peter Scott Fund for Conservation Action

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