Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, NARO

Slope beneath the cliff inhabited by seabird in the high artic revealed as nitrogen cycling hotspot

A research group led by the Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, NARO (NIAES) and the National Institute of Polar Research have revealed that the steep slope soil beneath the cliff where the seabird inhabits has very high denitrification ability, and it can release a powerful greenhouse gas (N2O) in the Arctic Svalbard (Norway). This research result is expected to be a vital information in understanding the actual state of carbon and nitrogen cycle in the tundra ecosystem of the high latitude Arctic and its response to climate change.

In the high Arctic tundra ecosystems, the cycling of organic materials such as carbon and nitrogen is very slow. Fresh organic matter rich in nutrient salt is brought as excrement and rich vegetation is established on the bottom of the cliff talus where sea bird inhabits. However, knowledge about the cycling of important nutrient nitrogen in such talus has not yet been revealed.

Researchers investigated two slope taluses near Ny-Alesund, Svalbard that are affected by seabird nesting. The soil on the surface of talus contains numerous denitrifying microorganisms and shows extremely high denitrification ability even at low temperature of 10°C. The denitrification ability remarkably increases when the soil is brought to 20°C which is higher than the maximum temperature in the local area. Also, one talus with high nesting density of seabirds showed the occurrence of N2O emission.

This research result is published in the international journal Scientific Reports (8: 17261).


Seabird-affected taluses are denitrification hotspots and potential N2O emitters in the High Arctic DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-35669-w

Reference Information

Figure 1: Surveyed talus (in yellow frame). BL and ST are the name of cliff at two sites.
Both are steep slopes with a slope of 30°or more, and the surface is
covered with moss and herbaceous plants.

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