Roosting Colony of Cormorants (Phalacrocorax Carbo Sinensis L.) as a Source of Nutrients for the Lake

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Abstract

Since 2005, great cormorants have been observed on the Lake Góreckie (Wielkopolski National Park) shoreline. The population of these birds occurring within the lake has gradually increased. In autumn 2008, more than 100 individuals were observed. In the period 2009-2012 the number of birds occupying the island periodically exceeded 250 individuals. So far, there is no breeding colony of great cormorants, but the birds have established a roosting colony on the island. In the period 2009-2012 we conducted research on the impact of the colony of great cormorants on the accumulation of nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements in soils beneath the colony and transfer of chemical elements from the colony to a nearby freshwater ecosystem. Our results show that a relatively small and recent colony of great cormorants can significantly affect the chemistry of soil. Compared to a control, the soil beneath the colony was characterized by statistically higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. A significant accumulation of nutrients was observed in the topsoil zone (to a depth of about 20 cm). Enrichment of soil in chemical elements has resulted in their further transport to a nearby lake. Compared to the control, the groundwater and surface runoff from the colony area revealed several-fold higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. The maximum abundance of cormorants in the roosting colony was reflected in the elevated concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in the littoral water near the colony. Our study demonstrates that the roosting colony of great cormorants can play a significant role in accelerating the eutrophication of surface waters.

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