Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Puffins dig their own graves

01.09.2005


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.


Project leader Dr René van der Wal from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Banchory said “We need help to sort this problem out. The tree mallow expansion is probably due to recent mild winters and the efforts of the puffins which provide great conditions for tree mallow to grow. However we have very little information and need to know more, fast.”

He added, “People can help us in three ways. First, they can visit our new tree mallow website to find out more about the problem and how to identify the alien plant. Second, we’d like them to both alert us and send in any photos, new and old, of coastal areas where tree mallow has been seen growing. Third, we would really like some local schools to get involved by planting tree mallow seedlings outside their classrooms and letting us know how they grow as the weather changes. We shall, of course, ensure that no seedlings escape.”

Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick are also involved in the project. Lillian Kelly from the Seabird Centre said “We’re really excited about this new project. It provides us with a great opportunity to run school activity days focussing on how global climate change is having obvious local impacts, for example on the puffins as tree mallow plants take hold. Birdwatchers come to Scotland from round the world to see our seabirds and we must conserve this vitally important tourist resource.”

The puffins themselves assist in the establishment of tree mallow, which needs a fertile soil to establish itself. Soils of seabird islands are nitrogen rich as a result of the guano and ammonia from seabirds faeces. Tree mallow seedlings grow predominantly in gaps in the vegetation that are created by puffins through their digging, or in areas that puffins frequently use.

Tree mallow is believed to have escaped into the wild in East Scotland after being planted in coastal gardens. In particular, lighthouse keepers grew the plants and used the large woolly leaves as an effective compress to cover wounds. Whereas tree mallow has been on the Bass Rock for more than three centuries, the species has rapidly expanded on other islands during the last fifteen years in the Firth of Forth region. Scientists do not know why this is the case. Hopefully this mystery will be resolved within this project.

Barnaby Smith | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ceh.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>