Albatrosses are reclaiming nesting areas on Midway Atoll Refuge as a plant pest yields to assault by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For the first time in years, choking mats of an invasive plant pest are receding from Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, opening critically needed nesting space for rare seabirds like the albatross. As cornstalk-high stands of Verbesina encelioides, or golden crownbeard, yield to an assault by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hope for the birds is rising.
More seabirds nest and more chicks survive in Midway’s native grass than in non-native Verbesina, finds the Service, which is conducting the Verbesina eradication with a $1 million National Wildlife Refuge System grant and matching funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Laysan and black-footed albatrosses nested at near-record levels in 2012-2013 at Midway Atoll in the Pacific, though biologists will need three or more years to know if the rise is due to Verbesina control. Another potentially promising sign: the January hatching of a short-tailed albatross chick, one of the world’s most endangered seabirds. The hatching was only the third in recorded history outside of three small islands near Japan; the earlier hatchings also occurred on Midway after plant control efforts began.
In addition to the three albatross species, the endangered Laysan duck and 18 other seabird species are expected to benefit from Verbesina’s removal…
(read more: USFWS - National Wildlife Refuge System)
Photos: Albatross in a verbesina-free area. (John Klavitter/USFWS). Next photos: Before and after.