We are all aware that the White Terns breeding in the greater Honolulu area enrich our lives in a number of ways. It turns out that while doing that they also enrich the soil under our feet. As KCC student Meeya Odell documented in a recently completed study, Manu o Ku make a “non-trivial contribution of nitrogen and phosphorus” to the urban ecosystem in which we live. They do this by consuming fish from the ocean and then depositing their droppings (ie, pooping) on the ground across their breeding range on Oahu. If you have spent any time watching the terns you’ve probably seen them squirt a stream of white excrement while roosting in a tree or even while flying overhead. A single squirt from a single tern may not seem like much but the amount of nutrients deposited by the growing number of terns over the course of a year contributes to the resiliency of the island ecosystem of which we are a part. Watch as Meeya describes the role of Manu-o-Ku poop in nutrient recycling and how she went about measuring the size of their contribution to this important process.
Mahalo to Meeya for increasing our understanding of the ways in which the White Terns benefit us and the island we live on!