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Nesting birds discovered on volcanic island in Japan

This handout picture taken by Japan Coast Guard on July 23, 2014, shows the newly created islet and Nishinoshima island, which are conjoined with erupting lava at the Ogasawara island chain.

This handout picture taken by Japan Coast Guard on July 23, 2014, shows the newly created islet and Nishinoshima island, which are conjoined with erupting lava at the Ogasawara island chain.

(Japan Coast Guard / AFP/Getty Images)
The Japan News/Yomiuri

At least three species of seabirds were seen on Nishinoshima island in the Ogasawara Islands, where volcanic eruptions continued for about two years from November 2013, a research team including scientists from the University of Tokyo announced recently.

The on-site research was the first conducted on the island since the eruption. The Environment Ministry and other groups will continue research in this remote island in Tokyo.

“We’ve learned about what’s happening in the island’s ecosystem after it was almost destroyed by the eruptions. I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops from now on,” one of the researchers said.

The research was conducted on Oct. 20-21 on the west coast of the island, which expanded 12-fold to 268 hectares due to the eruptions.

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Seven experts specializing in volcanology, ecological science and other fields approached the island by boat and swam from about 30 meters offshore, trying not to bring any alien species with them.

Volcanic rock almost covers the entire island. However, researchers found dozens of masked boobies (Aotsurakatsuodori), a species that lived on the island before the eruptions, nesting on the remaining 1-hectare area that is not covered by volcanic rock.

The birds were seen brooding chicks and eggs. On the cold, solid lava, brown boobies (Katsuodori) that seemed to have just left their nests were seen resting. Brown Noddies (Kuroajisashi) were hovering in the air above. The researchers also noted several kinds of migrating birds.

Kazuto Kawakami, a senior researcher at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, said, “Masked boobies build nests after brown boobies have left. They are coexisting by shifting their nesting seasons.”

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A small number of plant and insect species were also found to have survived on the island. They are expected to eventually extend their habitats to lava-covered areas.


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