Palmyra Atoll is a ring-shaped island encircling a lagoon in the South Pacific. The atoll lost many native trees due to U.S. military activity during World War II. Conservationists have worked to restore the ecosystem. Seabirds such as Black Noddies and Red-footed Boobies nest in the island’s rainforest. Their guano enriches the soil, and the soil’s nutrients help support the coral ecosystem that provides fish for the birds.
Seabirds, Trees and Coral
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Black Noddy call, ML 203906311, and Red-footed Booby calls, ML 32623, 0:04-0:06]
Strident calls of seabirds fill the salty air at Palmyra Atoll (AT-tahl), a thousand miles south of Hawaii in the South Pacific. The atoll is a ring-shaped island encircling a lagoon. The island rests atop an extinct undersea volcano, its surface densely covered with trees and other plants. Living coral reefs lie nearby, just below the ocean’s surface.
Black Noddies and Red-footed Boobies fly above the trees that they nest and roost in, a rainforest tree called grand devil’s-claws.
[Red-footed Booby calls, ML 203906391]
There’s a mutual relationship between the trees, the nesting seabirds, and the outlying coral. The birds’ guano falls from the trees, enriching the soil. Rain washes nutrients from the guano into the ocean, enhancing the health of the coral ecosystem, which in turn supports the seabirds.
Palmyra Atoll lost many native trees due to U.S. military activity during World War II. Invasive rats wreaked havoc on the island’s wildlife. But it’s now a Nature Conservancy preserve set within a national wildlife refuge. Conservationists eradicated the rats, and they’re restoring the rainforest to strengthen the fruitful marriage of seabirds, rainforest and reef.
[Black Noddy call, ML 203906311]
For Birdnote, I’m Mary McCann.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
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Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Black Noddy ML 203906311 recorded by J. del Hoyo, Red-footed Booby ML 32623 recorded by C. Robbins, and Red-footed Booby ML203906391 recorded by J. del Hoyo.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2021 BirdNote November 2021 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# palmyra-atoll-01-2021-11-19 palmyra-atoll-01
Nature Conservancy magazine, Spring 2021, p. 62