Aquatic birds may impact shallow ecosystems via organic and nutrient enrichment with feces. Such input may alleviate nutrient limitation, unbalance their ecological stoichiometry, and stimulate primary production. Herbivorous and piscivorous birds may produce different effects on aquatic ecosystems due to different physiology, diet and feces elemental composition. We analyze the effects of droppings from swans (herbivorous) and cormorants (piscivorous) on phytoplankton growth via a laboratory experiment. These birds are well represented in the Curonian Lagoon, where they form large colonies. As this lagoon displays summer algal hyper-blooms, we hypothesize an active, direct role of birds via defecation on algal growth. Short-term incubations of phytoplankton under low and high feces addition produces different stimulation of algal growth, significantly higher with high inputs of cormorant feces. The latter produces a major effect on reactive phosphorus concentration that augments significantly, as compared to treatments with swan feces, and determines an unbalanced, N-limited stoichiometry along with the duration of the experiment. During the incubation period, the dominant algal groups switch from blue-green to green algae, but such switch is independent of the level of feces input and from their origin. Heterotrophic bacteria also are stimulated by feces addition, but their increase is transient.
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