Recent research on a large penguin colony revealed that penguin's poop may stand to be a cause for the growing global warming around Antarctica.
To investigate effects of glacier retreat and impact of penguin activities on greenhouse gas emission, scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark made a visit to South Georgia, which is world's largest colony of King Penguins.
As per a report by the Financial Express, penguins generally kill their time by eating, feeding and pooping. Their basic food comes from krill, fish squid and the aquatic birds tend to excrete a lot. Penguins crowd together when they poop and the amount can accumulate so much in quantity, that it can help spot potential penguin colonies even from satellites.
However, as penguins feed a lot on nitrogen-rich meals like fish and krill, their guano (poop) produces large quantities of nitrous oxide, which is popularly known as the laughing gas. This means, an influx of penguin poop ups the level of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Scientists claim this contributes heavily to global warming.
Once penguins have filled their bellies, nitrogen is released from their faeces into the ground. Soil bacteria then convert the substance into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, states the study.
“The maximum emissions are about 100 times higher than in a fertilised Danish field. It is truly intense—not least because nitrous oxide is 300 times more polluting than carbon dioxide,” explains Professor Bo Elberling of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management.
Elberling goes on to explain that it's imperative to understand the effects of penguin guano in the fight against global warming, which is also increasingly becoming a threat around the poles, endangering the lives of its habitats.
"While nitrous oxide emissions in this case are not enough to impact Earth's overall energy budget, our findings contribute to new knowledge about how penguin colonies affect the environment around them, which is interesting because colonies are generally becoming more and more widespread," says the study.