In High Arctic tundra ecosystems, seabird colonies create nitrogen cycling hotspots because of bird-derived labile organic matter. However, knowledge about the nitrogen cycle in such ornithocoprophilous tundra is limited. Here, we determined denitrification potentials and in-situ nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions of surface soils on plant-covered taluses under piscivorous seabird cliffs at two sites (BL and ST) near Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, in the European High Arctic. Talus soils at both locations had very high denitrification potentials at 10 °C (2.62–4.88 mg N kg−1 dry soil h−1), near the mean daily maximum air temperature in July in Ny-Ålesund, with positive temperature responses at 20 °C (Q10 values, 1.6–2.3). The talus soils contained abundant denitrification genes, suggesting that they are denitrification hotspots. However, high in-situ N2O emissions, indicating the presence of both active aerobic nitrification and anaerobic denitrification, were observed only at BL (max. 16.6 µg N m−2 h−1). Rapid nitrogen turnover at BL was supported by lower carbon-to-nitrogen ratios, higher nitrate content, and higher δ15N values in the soils at BL compared with those at ST. These are attributed to the 30-fold larger seabird density at BL than at ST, providing the larger organic matter input.
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