UW Researcher Studies Seabird History In Falkland Islands

Nov 2, 2020

A black-browed albatross on the Falkland Islands.
Credit Dulcinea Groff

A researcher at the University of Wyoming studied the history of seabirds in the Falkland Islands, off the tip of Argentina. The goal was to learn how climate change affected the ecosystem in the past.

UW researcher Dulcinea Groff looked at soil on the islands to see when seabirds came there. She said the layers of their poop indicate that they first arrived about 5,000 years ago.

"We know that they arrived there when it was cooler, so that's kind of scary to think that they might not be there as the region continues to warm," said Groff. "Seabirds are super cool because they are these indicators of what's going on [with the climate] and they move around."

She said after the birds arrived, the islands developed grasslands, some up to 10 feet tall.

"We were surprised and delighted at the same time that seabirds arrived before the grasses established," said Groff. "And then the fire activity picked up because there was more fuel on the landscape because of all this grass."

She said the grass is now a hotspot for seabird breeding, but as global warming increases, the birds may need to look elsewhere for their habitat.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.