Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican, and Peruvian Booby
January 19, 2021 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Because of guano... The Incas were some of the earliest bird conservationists. And for the sake of seabird poo, the U.S. Congress authorized the earliest significant expansion beyond the North American continent in the Guano Islands Act of 1856, which "allowed (and still allows) any American who discovered an island with a large supply of guano to claim that island as an American territory." Haiti continues to demand the return of Navassa Island from the U.S.
posted by spamandkimchi (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Unlike synthetic fertilizers, guano can help build soils, making it a potentially crucial tool in fighting soil erosion.

Where can I buy me some futures on floating bird toilets?
posted by saysthis at 12:46 PM on January 19, 2021

The book 1493 by Charles Mann had an excellent chapter about this. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in poop islands.
posted by saturday_morning at 1:35 PM on January 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Previously on the Guano Act, an interesting interview with Guano scholar :-) Christina Burnett .
posted by Rumple at 2:38 PM on January 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

All we need to do is fashion little birb space suits... with butt flaps, I guess... and we can establish avian space colonies and eventually claim asteroids for the American Galactic Empire, under the Guano Islands Act.
posted by XMLicious at 4:13 PM on January 19, 2021

This is the type of shit that makes me love Metafilter.
posted by vorpal bunny at 7:32 PM on January 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

A guano island is also behind Bond super-villian Dr. No.
posted by Rash at 7:53 PM on January 19, 2021

David Attenborough did a great segment on guano in The Living Planet Episode 12: New Worlds. Here's a synopsis:

In Peru, Attenborough explains how overfishing anchovies slashed the populations of cormorants, which no longer dropped nutritious guano into the sea, which reduced the numbers of plankton, which brought low the anchovies. “It’s not only that if you get less anchovies, you get less cormorants, but if you get less cormorants, you get less anchovies,” he says. “And anchovies are food for sea fish like tuna and sea bass. Through that one rash act of overfishing 30 years ago, Peru has lost anchovies, cormorants, guano, and sea fish. It’s a major blow to the nation’s economy.” Trophic cascades, explained in a few minutes.

posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:01 PM on January 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Inspired by the recently-opened dinosaur butthole science post, and the fact that since 1856 we've ascertained that birds are the living descendants of dinosaurs, I'm wondering if finding enough dinosaur coprolites on an island could be justification to invoke the Guano Islands Act.
posted by XMLicious at 8:07 AM on January 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

There is some evidence that the trade in guano for fertilizer help spread the fungus that caused the Irish Potato Famine from its home in the Andes to the US and eventually Ireland.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

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