Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Puffins Are Returning To Craigleith

Puffins are suffering due to climate change. Photo: PA

1999 was a good year for puffins in Craigleith near North Berwick in the UK. The population has since dropped from a high of 28,000 breeding pairs to just a few thousand.

The decline was caused by the spread of the tree mallow (Lavatera arborea) plant. This woody plant grows up to 9’ tall and can easily choke out the entrance to the puffin burrows preventing the birds from nesting and rearing their young.

Picture of Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea) courtesy of Wikipedia

The plant has been on the nearby Bass Rock for hundreds of years; but, is usually killed off by the winter’s frosts. The tree mallow has only recently affected the small, 14-acre island of Craigleith and the neighbouring island of Firdra.

Experts at the Seabird Centre at North Berwick believe the tree mallow was able to make the jump to Craigleith so quickly and easily because of the milder frost-free winters caused by global warming.

The seabird centre has started project SOS Puffin – a major conservation project that has drawn hundreds of volunteers. The volunteers visit the island to cut down the Mediterranean plants in an effort to encourage the birds to return.

Tom Brock, the centre's chief executive, said the SOS Puffin project is beginning to win the battle with the numbers of puffins returning to nest increasing slightly each year.

The work is suspended each nesting season from April to July and begins again in autumn after nesting season is over.

Puffin numbers are also suffering in the Firth of Forth (Scotland) due to a lack of sand eels, their main food source, which are also thought to have been affected by climate change.


Patty said...

This is very tragic. You can always tell where 'man' has been, just follow the trail of death & destruction.

kathi said...

Good thing puffins are some of the cutest birds in the world so people are willing to go to great efforts to support their survival. Pity the plain.