Puffins on the island of Craigleith, in Scotland, are being forced out by giant alien plants. Puffin numbers have halved in recent years as the invasive tree mallow took over the island, growing in the manure-rich burrow entrances and preventing the puffins from breeding.
Although Atlantic puffin numbers are increasing rapidly across most of the east coast of Scotland, at Craigleith near North Berwick the reverse has been the case. The decline has been blamed on the rapid expansion of the tree mallow which grows in dense stands up to 3m tall and prevents the puffins from accessing their burrows. The number of burrows in which puffin pairs breed reduced from 28,000 in 1999 to 14,000 in 2003.
Scientists are now asking people for help, as part of a new three-year study funded by the Scottish Executive. The researchers need to find out why the tree mallow has suddenly expanded and develop practical approaches to control its growth.
Barnaby Smith | alfa
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