HAWAI’I ISLAND, Hawai’i — The Hawaiian Islands’ largest atoll, French Frigate Shoals, is key to understanding how seabird nesting habitat will change with predicted rising sea levels, according to a team of U.S. Geological Survey biologists.
The team led by Dr. Michelle Reynolds of USGS’ Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center studied the island’s topography and the population dynamics of eight seabird species on French Frigate Shoals, an isolated atoll of low-lying coral islands in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands about halfway between the main Hawaiian Islands and Midway Atoll in the mid-Pacific. These islands are part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the State of Hawai’i. Papahānaumokuākea is a seasonal home to more than 14 million seabirds, the largest tropical seabird rookery in the world. Virtually all of the world’s populations of Laysan albatross and black-footed albatross live there, as well as globally significant populations of red-tailed tropicbirds, Bonin petrels, Tristram’s storm-petrels and white terns. The USGS research provides new information useful for wildlife management in the face of sea-level rise. (more…)