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Netherlands Polar Data Center

Publication - External nutrient inputs into terrestrial ecosystems of the Falkland Islands and the Maritime Antarctic region

Abstract

Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems are nutrient-poor and depend for their functioning in part on external nutrients. However, little is known about the relative importance of various sources. We measured external mineral nutrient sources (wind blown material, precipitation and guano) at three locations, the cold temperate oceanic Falkland Islands (51 degrees 76'S), and the Maritime Antarctic Signy (60 degrees 71'S) and Anchorage Islands (67 degrees 61'S). These islands differ in the level of vegetation development through different environmental constraints and historical factors. Total mineral nitrogen input differed considerably between the islands. During the 3 month summer period it amounted to 18 mg N m(-2) on the Falkland Islands and 6 and 102 mg N m(-2) at Signy and Anchorage Islands, respectively. The high value for Anchorage was a result of guano deposition. By measuring stable isotopic composition (delta N-15) of the different nitrogen sources and the dominant plant species, we investigated the relative utilisation of each source by the vegetation at each island. We conclude that external mineral nitrogen inputs to Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems show great spatial variability, with the local presence of bird (or other vertebrate) colonies being particularly significant.

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