Landscape Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 10, pp 2295–2306 | Cite as

Small-scale natural landscape features and seabird nesting sites: the importance of geodiversity for conservation

  • Marie Eveillard-Buchoux
  • Peter Gerard BeningerEmail author
  • Céline Chadenas
  • Dominique Sellier
Research Article



Landscape geodiversity, and in particular small natural features (SNF), are crucial components of habitat suitability for many threatened species. Rocky cliffs at the sea-continent interface present complex small-scale geomorphologies which are exploited by nesting seabirds.


Elucidation of the relation between nest-site geomorphology and species preference in cliff-nesting seabirds. Evaluation of the potential of cliff-face SNF as seabird conservation tools.


Nest site geomorphological characteristics of four Atlantic (Brittany, France) cliff-dwelling seabirds (Razorbill, Guillemot, Fulmar, and Kittiwake) were categorized, and scored for degree of enclosure.


Of the 1048 nest sites examined, the greatest species overlap in location was the mid-region of the cliff face: Fulmar was concentrated in the upper half of the cliff, while Kittiwake showed the most extended vertical distribution. A distinct trend was evident with respect to ceiling presence and size: Razorbill + Kittiwake > Guillemot > Fulmar. Clear trends were also evident in ceiling inclination, ledge size, and side wall presence and inclination. A distinct ‘degree of enclosure’ hierarchy was documented, consolidated with the addition of sympatric species known for their extreme preferences: Atlantic Gannets and Guillemots at the extreme ‘open’ end, and Puffins and Storm Petrels at the extreme ‘closed’ end. Some plasticity in site choice was observed, probably corresponding to sub-optimal default choices.


Despite some plasticity, both vertical level and enclosure characteristics are associated with particular seabird species. Given the importance of nesting sites to seabird reproduction, the identification and conservation of these SNF constitute crucial conservation objectives.


Geomorphology Small natural features Nesting site Seabird Conservation 



We thank our field partners (SEPNB Bretagne-Vivante with B. Cadiou et P. Quere, J. Y. Monnat, F. Quénot, P. Provost, A. Deniau) for fruitful discussions. PGB is indebted to Prof. Kraft E. von Maltzahn for his prescient teaching of the importance of landscape in ecology, long before it became a discipline or even an established concept. This work was funded by a Fondation de France grant and PhD scholarship (OCEANE) to CC and MEB.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_879_MOESM1_ESM.docx (877 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 877 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, UMR LETG, Arts and Social Sciences FacultyNantes UniversityNantes Cedex 3France
  2. 2.Marine Biology Laboratory MMS, Science FacultyNantes UniversityNantes Cedex 1France

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