Temporal variation in atmospheric ammonia concentrations above seabird colonies

Blackall, T. D.; Wilson, L. J.; Bull, J.; Theobald, M. R.; Bacon, P. J.; Hamer, K. C.; Wanless, S.; Sutton, M. A.. 2008 Temporal variation in atmospheric ammonia concentrations above seabird colonies. Atmospheric Environment, 42 (29). 6942-6950.

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Recent studies have shown that seabirds are an important source of ammonia (NH3) emissions in remote coastal ecosystems. Nesting behaviour, which varies between seabird species, is likely to be a major factor in determining the proportion of excreted nitrogen (N) volatilised to the atmosphere as NH3. A long-term NH3 monitoring programme was implemented at a Scottish seabird colony with a range of species and associated nesting behaviours. The average monthly NH3 concentration was measured at 12 locations over a 14-month period, to infer spatial (i.e. species-specific) and temporal (seasonal) changes in NH3 emissions from different seabird species. An emissions model of seabird NH3, based on species-specific bioenergetics and behaviour, was applied to produce spatial estimates for input to a dispersion model. Atmospheric NH3 concentrations demonstrated spatial variability as a result of differing local populations of breeding seabirds, with the highest concentrations measured above cliff nesting species such as Common guillemot Uria aalge, Razorbill Alca torda and Black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. NH3 concentrations above a colony of burrow nesting Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica were low, considering the high number of birds. Emission of NH3 from excreted N exhibits a time lag of approximately a month. It is likely that all excreted N is lost from the colony by volatilisation as NH3 or surface run-off between breeding seasons. Modelled NH3 emissions and concentrations correlated with measured concentrations, but were much higher, reflecting uncertainties in the local turbulent characteristics. The results allow multi-species seabird population data to be used for the calculation of regional and global NH3 emission inventories, whilst improving understanding of N budgets of remote coastal ecosystems.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
Billett (to November 2013)
ISSN: 1352-2310
Additional Keywords: Ammonia, Emission, Seabird, Nitrogen, Guano, Model
NORA Subject Terms: Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 03 Feb 2009 10:56 +0 (UTC)

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