Bird droppings provide clues to environmental change | 10/10/2019 | Staff
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Queen's University researchers John Smol and Matthew Duda have identified concerning trends in a vulnerable seabird.

Led by Queen's researchers, a collaborative research team of Canadian universities (Queen's University, University of Ottawa, Memorial University of Newfoundland) and government scientists have identified concerning trends in the population size of Leach's Storm-petrels, a vulnerable seabird that mainly lives on Baccalieu Island, 64 km north of St. John's, Nfld.

Study - Matthew - Duda - John - Smol

The study led by Matthew Duda, and co-authored by John Smol, suggests that marine wildlife, including the Leach's storm-petrel, are not only confronting a range of recent human-induced pressures, but are also responding to longer-term environmental factors.

"The seabirds act as 'environmental engineers' by depositing large volumes of nutrient-rich **** and other refuse, thereby changing the aquatic and terrestrial landscape," says Dr. Smol, a biology professor and the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change at Queen's University. "By taking sediment cores from storm-petrel impacted ponds, we can reconstruct past population trends going back centuries or millennia, where many important clues lay hidden."

Researchers - Advantage - Fact - Build - Burrow

The researchers took advantage of the fact that storm-petrels build burrow nests on islands, often around freshwater ponds. Therefore, the ponds' sediments preserve the effects of changes in the amounts of seabird fecal matter and provide a...
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