Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycling in lakes can be impacted by numerous abiotic and biotic factors. Large animals, such as birds and mammals, may recycle nutrients within a system or bring them in from surrounding habitats or different landscapes. Eared Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis) congregate in large numbers in the fall on the Great Salt Lake (GSL), Utah, and may have an important role in recycling nutrients from macroinvertebrates back into the water column. We evaluated the role of Eared Grebes in N and P cycling within the GSL by estimating the magnitude of their nutrient recycling capacity. We estimated Eared Grebe population size on the GSL over 5 years at 300,000 to over 4,300,000 birds. We used a previously published food intake model to estimate monthly recycling of N (5 to 300 tonnes) and P (0.4 to 25 tonnes). The maximum estimates of N and P loading by Eared Grebes are about 25% of nutrient recycling in the GSL caused by turnover in the water column. Eared Grebes may speed up nutrient recycling, making nutrients available to primary producers sooner. The contribution of waterbirds to nutrient cycling is important for the entire N and P cycles within the GSL.
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