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Seabird guano enhances phytoplankton production in the Southern Ocean

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 00:59 authored by Shatova, O, Wing, SR, Melanie EastMelanie East, Wing, L, Hoffmann, LJ
Six incubation experiments were carried out to investigate the phytoplankton biomass response to seabird guano-enrichment under different nutrient regimes. Study locations included Antarctic waters of the Ross Sea and sub-Antarctic waters offshore of the Otago Peninsula, both being characterized by iron limitation of phytoplankton productivity in summer, the Sub-Tropical Frontal Zone offshore of the Snares Islands,which is generally micronutrient-replete, and the island wakewaters of the Snares Islands,which have a high nutrient supply from land. In all of the experiments the increase of phytoplankton biomass was higher in the treatments with guano addition compared to the controls. Guano additions were compared to Fe and macronutrients treatments (both added in quantities similar to those in the guano treatment) to shed light on which constituent(s) of guano are responsible for the observed increases in phytoplankton biomass. Macronutrients increased the phytoplankton biomass in the Sub-Tropical Frontal Zone, however, the response was less prominent than in the Guano treatment, suggesting synergetic effects of nutrients in seabird guano on phytoplankton production. It was also found that the pattern of response varied between the water masses with 6–10 days lag phase in the Sub-Antarcticwater mass and no lag phase in Sub-Tropical Frontal Zone. The calculations presented here suggest that micro- and macronutrients delivered from seabird colonies on some of the sub-Antarctic islands may provide a significant amount of limiting nutrients to the nutrient budget of the surrounding coastal waters, potentially sufficient to sustain a local phytoplankton bloom. Findings of the present study indicate that biological recycling of nutrients by seabirds likely supports marine primary production and enhances productivity of associated food webs in the vicinity of islands.


Publication title

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Science Bv

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Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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© 2016 Published by Elsevier

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Ecosystem adaptation to climate change

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