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Ammonium and potassium in snow around an emperor penguin colony

  • Andrew M. Rankin (a1) and Eric W. Wolff (a1)

Abstract

Snow samples taken at various distances from the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colony near Halley station were analysed by ion chromatography. Extremely high ammonium concentrations were encountered at the colony itself, but fell off sharply with distance from the colony, reaching background levels within a few kilometres of the colony. A seasonal effect was also seen, with the highest concentrations found in spring when the colony was at its most active. Levels of potassium and other sea-salt ions were also elevated near the colony. The ratio of sodium to potassium was lower than that found in bulk seawater, and closer to that found in the penguin's food source, indicating that the increased concentrations are due to emissions from the penguins and not merely to the proximity of open seawater to the site. The colony thus has a significant effect on the composition of the nearby snow, but this effect is strongly localised and is not likely to significantly influence snow chemistry at inland ice core drilling sites.

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