PEARL Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory
of Biology, Queen's University,
Kingston ON, Canada, K7L 3N6
Baccalieu Island Seabird Project
Baccalieu Island, off the east coast of Newfoundland (48° 8'6"N, 52°48'2"W), is an ecological seabird reserve supporting the world’s largest known colony of Leach’s Storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), with over 2 million breeding pairs. This small and nocturnal species is notoriously difficult to investigate, however conventional surveying methods indicate a rapid, recent decline in the population size. Questions remain concerning colony population sizes and fluctuations that pre-date modern monitoring, as well as determining which processes may be driving recent trends.
Leach’s Storm-petrels fly hundreds of kilometers offshore to forage primarily on lanternfish, returning to their burrows to feed their young the highly concentrated oily material. The petrels build their burrows in soft peat and heath habitats throughout the island, particularly in the catchment area of freshwater ponds on Baccalieu. Consequently, the resulting guano and other refuse fertilizes nearby water bodies and thus the ponds’ sediments may provide an important archive of past colony size.
Using a combination of paleolimnological proxies, including chlorophyll-a, δ15N and diatoms, we will attempt to reconstruct the long-term population dynamics of this globally important species to learn if colonization, growth, decline and extirpation are normal parts of colony dynamics.
Publications from this project: