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The global distribution of ammonia emissions from seabird colonies

Riddick, S.N.; Dragosits, U.; Blackall, T.D.; Daunt, F.; Wanless, S.; Sutton, M.A.. 2012 The global distribution of ammonia emissions from seabird colonies. Atmospheric Environment, 55. 319-327. 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.02.052

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Abstract/Summary

Seabird colonies represent a significant source of atmospheric ammonia (NH3) in remote maritime systems, producing a source of nitrogen that may encourage plant growth, alter terrestrial plant community composition and affect the surrounding marine ecosystem. To investigate seabird NH3 emissions on a global scale, we developed a contemporary seabird database including a total seabird population of 261 million breeding pairs. We used this in conjunction with a bioenergetics model to estimate the mass of nitrogen excreted by all seabirds at each breeding colony. The results combined with the findings of mid-latitude field studies of volatilization rates estimate the global distribution of NH3 emissions from seabird colonies on an annual basis. The largest uncertainty in our emission estimate concerns the potential temperature dependence of NH3 emission. To investigate this we calculated and compared temperature independent emission estimates with a maximum feasible temperature dependent emission, based on the thermodynamic dissociation and solubility equilibria. Using the temperature independent approach, we estimate global NH3 emissions from seabird colonies at 404 Gg NH3 per year. By comparison, since most seabirds are located in relatively cold circumpolar locations, the thermodynamically dependent estimate is 136 Gg NH3 per year. Actual global emissions are expected to be within these bounds, as other factors, such as non-linear interactions with water availability and surface infiltration, moderate the theoretical temperature response. Combining sources of error from temperature (±49%), seabird population estimates (±36%), variation in diet composition (±23%) and non-breeder attendance (±13%), gives a mid estimate with an overall uncertainty range of NH3 emission from seabird colonies of 270 [97–442] Gg NH3 per year. These emissions are environmentally relevant as they primarily occur as “hot-spots” in otherwise pristine environments with low anthropogenic emissions.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.02.052
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry
CEH Sections: Billett (to 30 Nov 2013)
Watt
ISSN: 1352-2310
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The attached document is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Atmospheric Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Atmospheric Environment, 55. 319-327. 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.02.052 www.elsevier.com/
Additional Keywords: coastal nitrogen, seabird colony, bioenergetic modelling, emission map, temperature, climate change
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 28 May 2012 14:21
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/18186

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