Characterization of anthropogenic materials on yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) nests breeding in natural and urban sites along the coast of Portugal

Date of publication 3 Aug 2020

Authors Lopes, Catarina S.; Faria, Joana Pais de; Paiva, Vitor H.; Ramos, Jaime A.

Sources Environmental Science and Pollution Research :



Anthropogenic materials are a persistent pressure on ecosystems, affecting many species. Seabirds can collect these materials to construct their nests, which may modify nest characteristics and cause entanglement of chicks and adults, with possible consequences on breeding success. The incorporation of anthropogenic materials in nests of seabird species that breed in both natural and urban environments, such as gulls, is poorly known. Here, we characterize and compare anthropogenic materials incorporated in yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) nests from two natural and two urban breeding sites across their Portuguese breeding range and during 2 consecutive years. Anthropogenic materials were found in 2.6% and 15.4% of gull nests from natural locations and in 47.6% and 95.7% of nests from urban breeding sites. No differences were found on hatching success between urban and natural breeding colonies. A significantly higher number of anthropogenic materials were found in the largest and more populated urban breeding colony, which on average included items of a greater mass but smaller size than items from the other three colonies. The higher incorporation of anthropogenic materials in urban locations could be a consequence of a lower access to natural nest construction materials and higher availability of anthropogenic debris. The quantity and diversity of anthropogenic materials incorporated in gull nests from urban locations indicate a need for improved debris management in urban settlements.

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