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Key objectives

The main goal of the project is the protection of the breeding population of Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), one of the few species of seabird that occurs in the Mediterranean, and whose breeding population on Tavolara is estimated to comprise between 10,000 and 13,500 pairs; the Tavolara colony is by far the largest in the world, considering that the global population of Yelkouan Shearwater is estimated at 15,000 – 30,500 pairs. The protection of the Yelkouan Shearwater colony on Tavolara, which accounts for 1/3 to 2/3 of the global population, is thus of crucial importance for the survival of the species. As in nearly all known colonies, the nest predation rate (video) on the part of Black Rats (Rattus rattus) on Tavolara is currently unsustainable, and is likely to be the cause of the decline in the Yelkouan Shearwater population over the last several decades.

In order to protect the Yelkouan Shearwater, the project aims to eradicate Black Rats from Tavolara. This should increase the number of fledged juveniles by 5,000-8,000 each year, which number is likely to be much higher than the total number of juveniles fledged each year by the entire global population. The eradication of rats will also benefit other tubenoses that are potentially (Mediterranean Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis) or certainly (Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea) breeding on Tavolara in small numbers; without rat predation, their populations could increase substantially. Other species that will presumably benefit from rat eradication include the European Leaf-toed Gecko (Euleptes europaea), a species endemic to a small part of the Mediterranean and which seems to suffer significantly from rat predation.

Additionally, in order to improve the quality of Tavolara’s natural habitats, the project aims to contain the local population of feral goats, which currently has an extremely high impact on the island’s vegetation and threatens the very survival of several rare plants. The project also aims to eradicate several alien invasive plant species, which are currently only present in limited numbers in the sector of the island most affected by human activities, but which could spread quickly causing the loss of habitats of great conservation value. These two activities aim to protect several habitats (4 direct targets of the project) and 4 plant species of Community interest, of which one (Centaurea horrida) is listed as a conservation priority and is known from only a handful of sites, two of which are on Tavolara.