Seabird colony effects on soil properties and vegetation zonation patterns on King George Island, Maritime Antarctic

Seabirds are among the most important vectors transferring biogenic compounds from the sea onto land in the polar regions and, consequently, influencing the properties of soil and vegetation. We studied the influence of bird colonies (Adélie penguin Pygoscelis adeliae, gentoo penguin P. papua and giant petrels Macronectes giganteus) on soil properties and plant communities on King George Island, Maritime Antarctic. We designated seven transects, each starting from the colony edge and running to a natural boundary feature, which were divided into contiguous sample plots where we identified specific plant taxa (Prasiola crispa, Deschampsia antarctica, Colobanthus quitensis, Usnea sp.), as well as hydrophilous and xerophilous ecological groups of mosses. Based on percentage contributions of each of these taxa, we distinguished six distinct vegetation zones along the transects, in which we measured physical (moisture, conductivity and pH) and chemical (NO3 −, NO2 −, NH4 +, K+ and PO4 3− content) soil parameters. Our study confirmed that, with increasing distance from bird colonies, the concentration of nutrients and soil conductivity decreased, while pH increased. The vegetation zones were clearly related to this gradient of seabird colony influence and occurred in the same sequence for all three bird species examined, although the largest colony of Adélie penguins had the strongest effect on vegetation. Similarly, the physical and chemical soil properties did not differ significantly between the colonies


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Authors: Zwolicki, Adrian, Barcikowski, Mateusz, Barcikowski, Adam, Cymerski, Mariusz, Stempniewicz, Lech, Convey, Peter ORCIDORCID record for Peter Convey

On this site: Peter Convey
1 October, 2015
Polar Biology / 38
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