Seabird activity influences Arctic methane and nitrous oxide emissions

January 15, 2013

Seabird activity is contributing significantly to methane and nitrous oxide emissions in the Arctic tundra, a new study shows. Methane emissions, which play an important role in the global carbon cycle, and nitrous oxide fluxes, a key element in the nutrient cycle, are predicted to increase in the Arctic and contribute to Arctic warming in the near future.

To study the effects of seabird activity on variations in nitrous oxide and methane fluxes from the tundra to the atmosphere, Zhu et al. compared fluxes from a seabird sanctuary and two non-seabird colonies on Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, Norway. They find that seabird activity was a major factor in these emissions. Mean fluxes of nitrous oxide were about 18 micrograms per square meter per hour at the seabird sites, compared with about 8 micrograms per square meter per hour at the non-seabird tundra sites. For methane, seabird activity actually changed the tundra from a methane sink to a source: mean fluxes of methane were about 53 micrograms per square meter per hour at the seabird sites and about -83 micrograms per square meter per hour at the non-seabird sites.

The researchers considered other factors that could influence methane and nitrous oxide emissions, including soil moisture and temperature. However, they find that seabird activity was the predominant factor in controlling the flux of these gases from the tundra to the atmosphere. They conclude that sites with high seabird activity are likely to be hotspots of methane and .

Explore further: Seabird ammonia emissions contribute to atmospheric acidity

More information: Impact of seabird activity on nitrous oxide and methane fluxes from High Arctic tundra in Svalbard, Norway, Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, doi:10.1029/2012JG002130 , 2012

Related Stories

Seabird ammonia emissions contribute to atmospheric acidity

September 23, 2008

Ammonia emissions from seabirds have been shown to be a significant source of nitrogen in remote coastal ecosystems, contributing to nutrient enrichment (eutrophication) and acidification in ecosystems. While most ammonia ...

How grazing lands influence greenhouse gas

May 18, 2010

Grazinglands represent one of the largest land resources in the world, yet their role as net sinks or sources of greenhouse gases is essentially unknown. Previous research has emphasized the role of grazing management on ...

Can biochar help suppress greenhouse gases?

March 18, 2011

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor to compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone. Intensively managed, grazed pastures are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions from grazing ...

Can biochar help suppress greenhouse gases?

April 20, 2011

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor to compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone. Intensively managed, grazed pastures are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions from grazing ...

How dairy farms contribute to greenhouse gas emissions

July 19, 2011

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have produced the first detailed data on how large-scale dairy facilities contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. This research was conducted by Agricultural Research ...

Recommended for you

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.