Thousands of seabirds were killed when the tsunami generated by the massive earthquake off Japan on March 11 flooded Midway, a remote atoll northwest of the main Hawaiian islands, a US wildlife official said Tuesday.
At least 1,000 adult and adolescent Laysan albatross were killed, along with thousands of chicks, said Barry Stieglitz, the project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges.
Many drowned or were buried under debris as waves reaching 1.5m high rolled over the low-lying atoll about four hours after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck.
The white-and-black feathered Laysan albatross is not in danger of becoming extinct. About one million of the birds live at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge about 2,100km northwest of Honolulu, making it the largest Laysan albatross colony in the world.
But Stieglitz said the deaths could account for a significant share of Laysan albatross chicks hatched during the current season.
“We may see just a slight decline in breeding birds next year, the following year and the year after that,” he said. “There will be a gap in the breeding population when these birds that would have grown up this year, would have matured and started breeding for the first time.” The waves hit each of the three islands inside the atoll.
Stieglitz said many wildlife populations rebound from natural disasters like this. But he said the tsunamis aren’t helpful to species facing threats like climate change, a loss of habitat, and invasive species.
“When you start piling the natural catastrophe on top of invasive species invasions and all of these other things, it makes the population a lot less resilient and more susceptible to extinction,” he said. “It’s rather unfortunate timing, in our eyes. Not that there is ever a good time for this, but there are better times and worse times. And in this era, this is a worse time.”
1. become extinct v. phr.
滅種 (mie4 zhong3)
例: The dinosaurs may have become extinct millions of years ago, but there is still a lot of interest in them.
2. account for v. phr.
對…負有責任；說明 (dui1…fu4 you3 ze2 ren4; shuo1 ming2)
例: The teacher said they asked for a day off, so that would account for most of the students not being here.
3. tsunami n.
海嘯 (hai3 xiao4)
例: “Tsunami” is originally a Japanese word, but it has become incorporated into many Western languages.
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