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Abstract

The results of several years of studies concerning the role of penguin rookeries in the functioning of the land ecosystems in the maritime Antarctic are summarized. The origins of phosphatic ornithogenic soil in the areas of currently active penguin rookeries arc presented. In the maritime Antarctic occurs relatively fast microbiological decomposition and mineralization of large amounts of excrements carried into coastal area by penguins during breeding period. Chemically aggressive water solutions of guano react with underlaying rocks. This process brings about the occurrence of wide zones of phosphatization. These processes cause the appearance of the series of phosphate minerals whose composition and properties depend on the changing physical and chemical conditions of the soil environment. It has been discovered that in the rookeries for various reasons abandoned by penguins phosphates are still present in large amounts and, gradually changed and washed out, have been for hundreds, or even thousands years a source of nutrients for plants growing in poor Antarctic land ecosystems. These soils came to be called the relic ornithogenic soils of the maritime Antarctic. The stages of plant colonization in the abandoned penguin rookeries were traced. The differences in the fate of the organic matter carried out from the sea to the coastal area by sea-birds in various climatic zones were discussed.
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