Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Saving Puffins, One Clip at a Time

Posted 15 Dec 2010 / 0

There’s an interesting article in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “A Path for Puffins“. The article discusses the campaign to help eradicate an invasive plant species from a somewhat-remote Scottish Island that is home to thousands of puffins. The puffin population was showing steady decline on the island, and an ecologist named René van der Wal became curious about why. It turns out that the story is complex but prominently involves the historical use of the island for human agriculture as well as interactions between the effects of the birds themselves (mostly through the deposition of massive amounts of guano) and human visitors over the few hundred years. Climate change also seems to be a culprit.

The solution to this problem is equally interesting: thanks to being featured on a prominent BBC nature show, the island is now host to hundreds of volunteers who manually remove the invasive plant species. These armies of volunteers have engaged in prolonged combat with the invasive plant, hoping to give native species of grass a chance to recolonize and exclude the invasive. Ironically it was the joint human effects of converting the island for agriculture and transport of the invasive plant that excluded native grasses, and now it is through brute labor that volunteers seek to reverse this damage.

Articles, Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, Conservation Biology, Invasive Species, Marine Ecosystems

Leave a Reply