Influence of allochtonous nutrients delivered by colonial seabirds on soil collembolan communities on Spitsbergen
Despite a widespread recognition of the role of seabird colonies in the fertilization of nutrient-poor polar terrestrial ecosystems, qualitative and quantitative data documenting any consequential influence on soil invertebrate communities are still lacking. Therefore, we studied community structure and abundance of springtails (Collembola) in ornithogenic tundra near two large seabird colonies in Hornsund, south-west Spitsbergen. We found considerably (5–20×) higher densities and biomass of Collembola in the vicinities of both colonies (the effect extending up to ca. 50 m from the colony edge) than in comparable control areas of tundra not influenced by allochtonous nutrient input. The most common springtails observed in the seabird-influenced areas were Folsomia quadrioculata, Hypogastrura viatica and Megaphorura arctica. The latter species appeared the most resistant to ornithogenic nutrient input and was found commonly closest to the bird colonies. Collembolan abundance decreased with increasing distance from the seabird colonies. However, relationships between collembolan density and specific physicochemical soil parameters and vegetation characteristics were weak. The most important factors were the cover of the nitrophilous green alga Prasiola crispa, total plant biomass and soil solution conductivity, all of which were correlated with distance from the colony and estimated amount by guano deposition. Community composition and abundance of springtails showed no evidence of being influenced of seabird diet, with no differences apparent between communities found in ornithogenic tundra developing in the vicinity of planktivorous and piscivorous seabird colonies. The study provides confirmation of the influence of marine nutrient input by seabirds on soil microfaunal communities.