Kuaihelani (Midway) is home to the world’s largest colony of Albatross. Three species of Albatrosses reside on Kuaihelani: the Mōlī (Laysan Albatross), the Ka‘upu (Blackfooted Albatross), and the Short-tailed Albatross.
The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) began extensive protection measures in 2019 due to these species facing a conservation crisis. On Kuaihelani, albatross conservation measures are tracking the increasing issues our populations are facing due to climate change.
The albatrosses utilize our ground cover to find their mates and create their nests. Albatrosses are likely to return to the same area of which they were raised to create their nests. With increasing sea levels, these vital breeding sites are prone to flooding. Additionally, more frequent, and extreme storms have caused nesting sites to be washed out.
Heat stress is also a major concern for the Albatross. With higher temperatures, the adults and chicks are reaching their physiological heat thresholds. The video below depicts some albatrosses panting to thermoregulate.
To help mitigate some of the negative effects of climate change, our work here on Kuaihelani has focused on restoring sand dunes, providing shade, and educating people about our special ecosystem. We restore sand dunes with native plant species to reduce erosion. These plant species send down roots that help hold the dunes in place. Many restoration sites have also included native species, such as Kāwelu (Bunch Grass) and Naupaka, to provide shade for the adults and chicks.
Happy World Albatross Day!
-Juli and Percy