More than 1,600 kilometers east of the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica lies the Atlantic island of South Georgia. There, king penguins live in huge colonies. They spend their days chomping on krill, squid, and fish, feeding their chicks, and producing “guano.”
And that guano releases tremendous amounts of what’s better known as laughing gas, according to the study in Science of the Total Environment, which involved laboratory analysis of soil and guano samples.
“Penguin guano produces significantly high levels of nitrous oxide around their colonies. The maximum emissions are about 100 times higher than in a recently fertilized Danish field. It is truly intense—not least because nitrous oxide is 300 times more polluting than CO2,” explains Bo Elberling, professor in the University of Copenhagen’s department of geosciences and natural resource management.
Besides being a strain on the climate, the gas has an effect very similar to the sedative used in the dentist’s office, Elberling explains.
I can see all the stoners in Scandinavia lining up, now. Applying for jobs as “research assistants”.