Polar ecosystems are generally nutrient-poor. Organic matter rich in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus is added to the soil thanks to populations of seabirds – in the Arctic, mostly little auks – in the form of guano, feathers, eggshells and birds remains which leads to the formation of ornithogenic soils. In the Antarctic, these soils can occur at active or abandoned penguin colonies.
Large accumulation of organic matter of marine origin around breeding colonies contributes to the emergence of vast areas of ornithogenic tundra, which is characterized by rich plant communities.
Birds not only change soil conditions for microbial life, they also inoculate microorganisms through guano deposition, and the composition of this guano seems to be influenced by birds’ diet.