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Increase in Wedge‐tailed Shearwaters and Changes in Soil Nutrients following Removal of Alien Mammalian Predators and Nitrogen‐fixing Plants at Kaena Point, Hawaii

Author:
VanderWerf, Eric A., Young, Lindsay C., Crow, Susan E., Opie, Eryn, Yamazaki, Hironao, Miller, Christopher J., Anderson, David G., Brown, Leland S., Smith, David G., Eijzenga, Jakob
Source:
Restoration ecology 2014 v.22 no.5 pp. 676-684
ISSN:
1061-2971
Subject:
Leucaena leucocephala, Prosopis pallida, Puffinus, ecosystems, indigenous species, mammals, nesting, nitrates, nitrogen, nutrient content, orthophosphates, predators, reproduction, seabirds, soil nutrients, soil sampling, Hawaii
Abstract:
A predator‐proof fence was built at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, Hawaii in 2010 as part of an ecosystem restoration project. All non‐native mammalian predators were removed and are now excluded. Non‐native plants are being removed and native species are being outplanted. We monitored abundance and reproduction of Puffinus pacificus (wedge‐tailed shearwaters), collected soil samples before and after fence construction, and examined the relationship between changes in shearwater numbers and soil nutrients. Shearwater numbers increased over time, from 11 young produced in 1994 to 3,274 in 2012. The average number of shearwaters produced during the 3 years before and after fence construction increased from 614 ± 249 to 2,359 ± 802 (384% increase). The average number of shearwater pairs attempting to nest also increased during the same periods, from 3,265 ± 827 to 4,726 ± 826 (45% increase). Soil samples from 2010 to 2013 showed an overall decline in concentration of ammonium (NH₄ ⁺) and no change in concentration of nitrate (NO₃ ⁻) or orthophosphate (PO₄ ³ ⁻). However, there was a positive relationship between changes in shearwater numbers and changes in ammonium. Examination of spatial patterns in nutrient abundance showed that the highest nutrient concentrations occurred in areas dominated by the non‐native nitrogen‐fixing plants Leucaena leucocephala and Prosopis pallida. Removal of these plants caused local nutrient declines, but increases in shearwater numbers have countered this at some points. We anticipate that shearwaters and other seabirds will replace non‐native plants as the dominant source of nitrogen and phosphorous and facilitate recovery of a native‐dominated plant assemblage.
Agid:
815051