One tree likes seabird poop, the next prefers fresh air

Jan 24, 2014
One tree likes seabird poop, the next prefers fresh air

Off the west coast of Peru, seabirds deposit thick layers of guano that accumulates on the ground because of the lack of rain. Guano has historically played a key role in agriculture worldwide because it is rich in plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Now, researchers from Wageningen University and Southern Illinois University revealed the effects of guano on the native trees of the arid coasts of South America.

Researchers found that non-nitrogen fixing trees become more abundant closer to sea replacing the usually more abundant nitrogen fixing trees in these deserts. "We think this is related to the positive effect of marine on non-nitrogen fixing trees" explains Gilles Havik, a former master student at Wageningen University and leading author of the Plos One paper that appeared on January 22.

"Nutrients are limiting in the desert, so this input from the sea through the nitrogen-rich guano has a positive effect for trees that cannot fix nitrogen. What we found very striking is that trees that do fix nitrogen from the air do not seem to benefit from nutrients coming from the sea even though fixing nutrients from the air is expensive for a plant" continues Havik. These findings highlight the important interactions between marine and terrestrial environments, and the need to understand such interaction to guide conservation efforts.


Explore further: CO2 emissions set to reach new 40 billion ton record high in 2014

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers explain nitrogen paradox in forests

Jun 18, 2008

Nitrogen is essential to all life on Earth, and the processes by which it cycles through the environment may determine how ecosystems respond to global warming. But certain aspects of the nitrogen cycle in temperate and tropical ...

Bacteria on old-growth trees may help forests grow

Jun 07, 2011

A new study by Dr. Zoe Lindo, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McGill University, and Jonathan Whiteley, a doctoral student in the same department, shows that large, ancient trees may be very important ...

The more, the merrier: Mixing plant species for benefits

Oct 03, 2012

Researchers believe that the richness of plant species can boost primary production. But studies investigating the mechanisms behind positive plant biomass response to greater plant diversity have been lacking ...

Bacteria living on old-growth trees

Feb 23, 2011

A new study by Dr. Zoe Lindo, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McGill University, and Jonathan Whiteley, a doctoral student in the same department, shows that large, ancient trees may be very important ...

Recommended for you

World greenhouse emissions threaten warming goal

13 hours ago

Emissions of greenhouse gases are rising so fast that within one generation the world will have used up its margin of safety for limiting global warming to 2°C (3.6°F), an international team of scientists ...

Tens of thousands join London climate march

14 hours ago

Tens of thousands of people in London joined a global day of protest Sunday to demand action on climate change, among them British actress Emma Thompson who said the challenge to save the planet was like ...

UN summit to test commitment to climate fund

14 hours ago

A global fund created to spearhead climate change financing faces a key test at a UN summit this week when it looks to the leaders of the industrialised world to stump up billions of dollars to fill its underflowing ...

User comments : 0