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    The physiological and behavioural activities of animals have far-reaching impacts on the characteristics and functioning of soil. This includes vertebrates, which are capable of modifying the physicochemical and biochemical properties of soil. To date, however, no species is known to be responsible for the entire process of soil formation, modification and maintenance. Large-bodied birds build nests which they then use for several years or even decades. During nest construction or renovation, birds gather and transport to the nesting site organic and mineral matter that includes tree branches of various sizes, twigs, turf, straw and hay. Over time, during subsequent breeding events, adult birds supply further loads of organic matter to the nest, such as food remains, excrement, pellets, feathers, egg shells and other materials. Taking the White Stork Ciconia ciconia as an example, we have shown that the materials deposited in the nests of large-bodied birds gradually produce ornithogenic soils over the years, with distinguishable layers having different physicochemical characteristics and biochemical activities. The tested nesting substrate met the criteria for ornithogenic material; the layers had appropriate thickness and phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) content. Results of the study indicates that the material contained in White Stork nests have the characteristics of Histosols. Moreover, such nests harbour assemblages of fungi and arthropods that contain species typical of soil mycobiota and fauna, respectively. This study is the first to describe a soil that is formed, modified and maintained entirely by vertebrates and is physically isolated from the ground. Our results highlight the fact that the nests of large birds are unique structures in ecosystems and provide a habitat for a rich and diverse assemblage of organisms. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


    Ewa Błońska, Jarosław Lasota, Robert Jankowiak, Jakub Michalcewicz, Tadeusz Wojas, Adam Zbyryt, Michał Ciach. Biological and physicochemical properties of the nests of White Stork Ciconia ciconia reveal soil entirely formed, modified and maintained by birds. The Science of the total environment. 2021 Apr 01;763:143020

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    PMID: 33143925

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