Avian Guano as a Nutrient Input to Cliff-Face Ecosystems in Western North Carolina

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Angela Elizabeth Langevin (Creator)
Institution
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: http://www.library.appstate.edu/
Advisor
Michael Madritch

Abstract: Terrestrial cliff-face ecosystems are unique habitats that harbor diverse vegetational communities and an array of animal species. However, fundamental processes such as nutrient cycling in cliff-face ecosystems remain poorly understood. Cliff-face vegetative communities receive some nitrogen through atmospheric deposition, but few other nutrient-linkages have been explored. Seabirds are a well-established vector of nitrogen subsides between marine ecosystems and coastal cliffs, and I document a similar nutrient transfer between highly productive forest ecosystems and nutrient-poor terrestrial cliffs. Like seabirds, terrestrial cliff-nesting birds excrete nitrogen-rich guano at cliff nest sites, subsequently increasing nitrogen (N) availability below nesting sites. This study investigates a fundamental ecosystem process on cliffs, nitrogen cycling, while also exploring a potential link between terrestrial forest and cliff-face ecosystems in western North Carolina.To measure the community effects of a potential nitrogen subsidy, I compared cliff-face N levels, vascular plant, bryophyte and lichen diversity between the paired vertical transects. My data indicate higher ammonium levels below nests on the cliff-face (p<0.05), and differences between vegetation community composition below nests and on adjacent areas on control transects (p<0.05). Thus, nitrogen levels below raptor cliff nests are elevated enough to cause vegetation community composition shifts in terrestrial cliff-face ecosystems.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
Langevin, A.E. (2015). Avian Guano as a Nutrient Input to Cliff-Face Ecosystems in Western North Carolina. Unpublished master's thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2015
Keywords
Cliff Ecology, Cliff-Nesting Birds, peregrine falcon in North Carolina, nutrient cycling, saxicolous lichens and nitrogen,

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