Seabirds are more than just
adorable and edgy life forms that we enjoy watching from afar. Their poop, it
turns out, plays a crucial role in regulating the temperature in the Arctic.
Seabird poop, also known as guano, is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, both of
which are necessary for plant growth.

When seabirds poop on Arctic ice
floes, it fertilises the surrounding water, promoting phytoplankton growth.
Phytoplankton is microscopic plants that serve as the foundation of the Arctic
food chain, providing food for fish, whales, and other marine mammals.

The growth of phytoplankton has
an unexpected impact on the Arctic climate. These plants cool the water and
help to reflect sunlight into the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide from
the air.

This helps to mitigate the
warming effect of greenhouse gases in the Arctic and slows sea ice melting.
Seabird poop has the potential to reduce the rate of sea ice melting as well as
the impact of ocean acidification.

Explore this video to know more details

Ocean acidification occurs when
the ocean absorbs too much carbon dioxide, causing it to become more acidic and
altering the chemistry of the water. By absorbing excess carbon dioxide from
the water and converting it into biomass, phytoplankton can help to counteract
this process.

Seabird poop is more than just a
stench; it also plays an important role in regulating Arctic temperatures.
Seabirds help to slow the melting of sea ice and mitigate the effects of ocean
acidification by promoting the growth of phytoplankton. So, the next time you
see a seabird, remember how important they are in maintaining the delicate
balance of the Arctic ecosystem.

Bird poop is a messy nuisance in
the Arctic, but seabird droppings have a beneficial effect: they slightly cool
the region threatened by climate change, according to a new study. In short,
chemical reactions triggered by bird droppings, or guano, alter the properties
of the clouds above, making them more reflective, according to the researchers.
Skies can reflect solar energy into space, trying to cool the atmosphere.

According to a press release, the
researchers were notified of the ammonia-guano connection during a trip to the
Canadian Arctic two years ago when air samples disclosed high levels of ammonia
when the temperature was above freezing. The Arctic lacks the dense
concentrations of agriculture and industry that typically produce so much
nitrogen. So they looked around and eventually found the source to be the

It seemed that seabirds could not
produce enough poop to form actual clouds. However, flocks of birds flock to
the Arctic every year, leaving behind an estimated 33,000 tonnes of ammonia,
according to Botkin-Kowacki.


The researchers simulated the
effect of this stinky compound on the formation of low-lying clouds. During the
summer, they discovered that this type of cloud cover could block about one
watt per square metre of heat.

According to a new study led by U
of T researchers, seabird colonies play an important role in cooling the summertime
Arctic by helping to create cloud cover from the sun. What causes the birds to
create that cloud cover? The researchers discovered that they do it through
their poop. Their research reveals an incredible example of nature’s delicate
balances – and it’s making headlines all over the world.

Every summer, millions of
seabirds migrate to the Arctic to feed in its nutrient-rich waters. The ammonia
produced by the guano or excrement helps bring airborne particles together to
form clouds that reflect sunlight, according to the researchers.

Furthermore, we found high levels
of ammonia in the environment downwind of Antarctic seabird colonies. Murphy
and Wentworth were curious to see if similar conditions existed in the Arctic,
where millions of birds migrate each year.

 The real thrill came when they returned home
and entered their findings into existing computer climate models, which had
previously failed to account for the ammonia emissions from seabird colonies,
which were primarily concentrated between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

In nutshell, the researchers
estimate that this effect causes about 0.5 watts of summertime cooling per
square metre on average in the Arctic, with more than a watt of cooling per
square metre in some areas, using a simulation of the Arctic’s atmospheric

In comparison, the natural
greenhouse effect causes approximately 150 watts of warming per square metre
around the world. Furthermore, carbon dioxide from human activities currently
contributes an average of 1.6 watts per square metre of warming.


This ammonia is crucial. Once in
the atmosphere, it can react with other gases, most notably sulfuric acid and
water vapour, to produce atmospheric particles. These particles are extremely
small, measuring only a few nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is 1 billionth
of a meter). However, as the molecules grow larger — to at least 50 to 80
nanometers — they “can act as the seeds for cloud droplet formation.

Understanding how climate change
and human activities in the Arctic affect seabirds may be useful in forecasting
future temperature changes in the Arctic.

Seabirds, such as gulls,
penguins, puffins, guillemots, auks, albatrosses, shearwaters, fulmars, and
cormorants, tend to nest in colonies, leaving deposits of guano so rich and
thick that nations fought over it in the nineteenth century.

Frequently Ask Questions (FAQs)

Is bird poop environmentally

Yes, in certain circumstances,
bird poop can be considered environmentally friendly. Bird poop (or guano), as
mentioned in my previous answer, is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, two
essential nutrients for plant growth. When seabirds poop on Arctic ice floes,
it fertilises the surrounding water, promoting the growth of algae.

What makes bird poop so valuable?

Bird poop, also known as guano,
is beneficial due to its high nitrogen and phosphorous content, both of which
are essential nutrients for plant growth. This makes guano an excellent natural
fertilizer for enhancing soil fertility and crop yields. Guano is
appreciated in agriculture for its ability to provide plants with a
slow-release supply of nutrients, which promotes healthy growth and increases
yields. It is also a more sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers,
which can cause water pollution and soil depletion.


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