Life thrives in Antarctic hot spots created by seal and penguin poop | Science

Stef Bokhorst

In the desolate Antarctic landscape, life is difficult to come by—unless you’re near some seal and penguin poop. The nitrogen-rich feces improve the soil and produce hot spots with great deals of biological variety that can extend more than 1000 meters beyond the borders of penguin and seal nests, according to a brand-new research study.

Researchers travelled through fields of waste created by elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and Antarctic penguins, consisting of gentoo (Pygoscelis papua), chinstrap (P. antarcticus, imagined), and Adélie penguins (P. adeliae). The group analyzed the soil and plants surrounding these nests at 3 different places along the Antarctic peninsula. Where there are more seals and penguins—and more of their poop—there was more biodiversity in the land, the scientists report today in Existing Biology.

The feces partly vaporize as ammonia, which then can get blown more than 1000 meters inland by the wind and is soaked up into the soil, the researchers keep in mind. This ammonia then develops a cycle of nutrient enrichment: The nitrogen is taken in by plants and lichens, which in turn support an extraordinary variety of invertebrates, consisting of termites, springtails, and roundworms. In reality, the group recognized countless invertebrates per square meter of soil surrounding the seal and penguin nests—as much as 8 times greater than the number discovered in other parts of the peninsula.

These findings use researchers a more powerful understanding of how life can grow in the coldest put on Earth. Now, the huge concern is whether these biodiversity hot spots will produce ideal breeding premises for something else: intrusive plant types that can threaten the future of these environments.

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