The Tavolara archipelago is one of the most important areas for the preservation of Mediterranean biodiversity. Its proximity to Sardinia and the presence of numerous islands create extremely favourable conditions for plant and animal species of conservation interest.
Tavolara is one of the most important Mediterranean islands for the conservation of seabirds, as it hosts about 50% of the population of one of the four species of tubenoses that nest in the Mediterranean Sea, the Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan).
The Yelkouan Shearwater’s conservation status has recently been downgraded to ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). The size of the breeding population on Tavolara is estimated at 9,991-13,424 pairs (the world population of this endemic species of the central and eastern Mediterranean is estimated at 15,337-30,519 pairs). The island thus plays a crucial role for the conservation of Puffinus yelkouan at the global level.
All of the Yelkouan Shearwater nests checked as part of a monitoring programme carried in collaboration with ISPRA (Italian Institute for Environmental Research and Protection) in 2006-2011 in the Tavolara Marine Protected Area were predated by rats. The only nests with some reproductive success where those located in caves on sheer cliffs, which are inaccessible to rats, and those in areas subjected to local rat eradication efforts.
The rats that humans introduced to islands can thwart the productivity of entire populations of shearwaters and other species, by eating their eggs and chicks.
In order to ensure the conservation of the Yelkouan Shearwater, local institutions participated in the LIFE+ call for proposals. The project will also deal with several invasive plant species that jeopardize the environmental balance of coastal habitats, and incorporates the essential involvement of the local population and visitors, who will be asked to contribute to the protection of natural habitats.