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Rick Kelley

Rat Removal Leads to Coconut Palm Explosion

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Rick Kelley

Or How to Kill a Million Coconut Palms.

Coconuts are not native to Hawaii and can become weeds. This was illustrated in a powerful way on the small Palmyra atoll south of Hawaii.  Coconuts had found their way to Palmyra long ago.  About ten years ago the Nature Conservancy set out to eradicate the introduced black rats that cause so much ecological damage on tropical islands.  They were successful.  There were two unanticipated results.  On the good side, the mosquitoes vanished.  Turns out the rats were the only mammal supplying blood.  On the bad side, the population of coconut palms exploded. They threatened to crowd out every other plant on the atoll, not what the Nature Conservancy had in mind.  Turns out the rats had been feasting on the fallen fruit preventing most seeds from germinating.  Now the Nature Conservancy is setting out on a two year project to cut down 99.9% of the coconut palms.  Turns out engineering ecosystems is more difficult than it seems.

https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/the-conversation/2021-11-03/conservationists-are-diligently-controlling-coconut-trees-restoring-the-ecosystem-on-palmyra-atoll

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el-blanco

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Kailua_Krish
17 hours ago, Rick Kelley said:

Or How to Kill a Million Coconut Palms.

Coconuts are not native to Hawaii and can become weeds. This was illustrated in a powerful way on the small Palmyra atoll south of Hawaii.  Coconuts had found their way to Palmyra long ago.  About ten years ago the Nature Conservancy set out to eradicate the introduced black rats that cause so much ecological damage on tropical islands.  They were successful.  There were two unanticipated results.  On the good side, the mosquitoes vanished.  Turns out the rats were the only mammal supplying blood.  On the bad side, the population of coconut palms exploded. They threatened to crowd out every other plant on the atoll, not what the Nature Conservancy had in mind.  Turns out the rats had been feasting on the fallen fruit preventing most seeds from germinating.  Now the Nature Conservancy is setting out on a two year project to cut down 99.9% of the coconut palms.  Turns out engineering ecosystems is more difficult than it seems.

https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/the-conversation/2021-11-03/conservationists-are-diligently-controlling-coconut-trees-restoring-the-ecosystem-on-palmyra-atoll

Some of the pollen analysis from places like Kawainui marsh on Oahu suggests giant Pritchardia forests prior to rats and humans coming to Hawaii. I can believe it when you see how easily Pritchardia remota germinates in the botanical gardens when they are happy

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NOT A TA
18 hours ago, Rick Kelley said:

On the good side, the mosquitoes vanished.  Turns out the rats were the only mammal supplying blood.

While the rats were the only mammal, birds would/should have been blood providers for the Asian Tiger Mosquitoes. This makes me wonder if the poison used to kill the rats also killed the mosquitoes feeding on both live and recently diseased rats and the mosquitoes were eliminated only because the rats were the preferred blood source.

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amh
1 hour ago, NOT A TA said:

While the rats were the only mammal, birds would/should have been blood providers for the Asian Tiger Mosquitoes. This makes me wonder if the poison used to kill the rats also killed the mosquitoes feeding on both live and recently diseased rats and the mosquitoes were eliminated only because the rats were the preferred blood source.

Aedes albopictus will feed on birds, but I believe most surveys have found that their primary host are mammals. The mosquitos may not be able to get enough blood from birds alone.

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ruskinPalms

I found this interesting and read the Wikipedia article about the atoll. I took these quotes from the article regarding coconuts:

 

“On November 7, 1802, the ship Palmyra, under Captain Cornelius Sawle, was shipwrecked on the reef, which took the vessel's name.[28] Lacking a navigable boat passage through the reef from the sea, it had never been inhabited. No marae, basalt artifacts or evidence of Polynesian, Micronesian or other pre-European native settlements before 1802 have been found on Palmyra.[29] Captain Sawle wrote:

There are no inhabitants on the island, nor was any fresh water found; but cocoanuts [sic] of a very large size, are in great abundance; and fish of various kinds and in large shoals surround the land.[30][9]

Cooper visited the island in July 1913 with scientists Charles Montague Cooke, Jr., and Joseph F. Rock, who wrote a scientific description of the atoll. Botanist Rock discovered unusual coconut palms in 1913, which palms expert Odoardo Beccari identified as Cocos nucifera palmyrensis (Becc.), the coconut type with the largest, longest and most triangular (in cross-section) fruits in the world, existing only at Palmyra. (The apparently closest Cocos nuciferarelative occurs only in the distant Nicobar Islandsin the Indian Ocean.)[13] The "mammoth coconuts" were put on display in Honolulu in 1914 along with paintings of Palmyra by Hawaiian artist D. Howard Hitchcock,[49] who had accompanied Cooper to the island.[50]

On August 19, 1922, Cooper sold his interest in the atoll except two minor islets to Leslie and Ellen Fullard-Leo for $15,000 (equivalent to $231,918 in 2020). They established the Palmyra Copra Company to harvest the coconuts growing on the atoll. “

Are we sure that coconuts aren’t “native” to that island? Seems like they were not established there by people.  I do think what they are doing is ok because I think the rats were eating all kinds of native vegetation along with the coconuts but the coconuts are more vigorous and took back over faster than other vegetation once the rats were gone. I guess it is noble that they are trying to restore the pre-rat balance of things on the island. 
 

 

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amh
2 hours ago, ruskinPalms said:

I found this interesting and read the Wikipedia article about the atoll. I took these quotes from the article regarding coconuts:

 

“On November 7, 1802, the ship Palmyra, under Captain Cornelius Sawle, was shipwrecked on the reef, which took the vessel's name.[28] Lacking a navigable boat passage through the reef from the sea, it had never been inhabited. No marae, basalt artifacts or evidence of Polynesian, Micronesian or other pre-European native settlements before 1802 have been found on Palmyra.[29] Captain Sawle wrote:

There are no inhabitants on the island, nor was any fresh water found; but cocoanuts [sic] of a very large size, are in great abundance; and fish of various kinds and in large shoals surround the land.[30][9]

Cooper visited the island in July 1913 with scientists Charles Montague Cooke, Jr., and Joseph F. Rock, who wrote a scientific description of the atoll. Botanist Rock discovered unusual coconut palms in 1913, which palms expert Odoardo Beccari identified as Cocos nucifera palmyrensis (Becc.), the coconut type with the largest, longest and most triangular (in cross-section) fruits in the world, existing only at Palmyra. (The apparently closest Cocos nuciferarelative occurs only in the distant Nicobar Islandsin the Indian Ocean.)[13] The "mammoth coconuts" were put on display in Honolulu in 1914 along with paintings of Palmyra by Hawaiian artist D. Howard Hitchcock,[49] who had accompanied Cooper to the island.[50]

On August 19, 1922, Cooper sold his interest in the atoll except two minor islets to Leslie and Ellen Fullard-Leo for $15,000 (equivalent to $231,918 in 2020). They established the Palmyra Copra Company to harvest the coconuts growing on the atoll. “

Are we sure that coconuts aren’t “native” to that island? Seems like they were not established there by people.  I do think what they are doing is ok because I think the rats were eating all kinds of native vegetation along with the coconuts but the coconuts are more vigorous and took back over faster than other vegetation once the rats were gone. I guess it is noble that they are trying to restore the pre-rat balance of things on the island. 
 

 

Now, dont go questioning the narrative. :innocent:

Very interesting, publicly available information you found.

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