Researchers based in Denmark and China were studying the effects of retreating glaciers and the accompanying surge in penguins on greenhouse gas levels on South Georgia Island. It turns out that climate change is kicking off a sort of feedback loop, where the influx of penguins leads to more penguin poop and therefore even more greenhouse gases. But it also leads to a heck of a time for the scientists breathing in all that nitrous oxide, colloquially known as laughing gas.
“After nosing about in guano for several hours, one goes completely cuckoo. One begins to feel ill and get a headache,” the study’s corresponding author, Bo Elberling from the Center for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen, told the AFP.
The penguin poop itself doesn’t contains laughing gas; instead, the nitrogen in the poop enters the ground, where the soil turns it into nitrous oxide, Eberling told the AFP. All of this analysis led the researchers to conclude that penguin colonies are hotspots for greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. It’s possible the amount of gas will increase as the penguins move inland.
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