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

Abstract

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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Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We are thankful to Rita Soares and João Oliveira for the help in the fieldwork in Deserta Island. Access to public buildings in urban locations was provided by Câmara Municipal de Peniche, Câmara Municipal do Porto, Escola Básica de Miragaia do Porto and Tribunal da Relação do Porto. We are also thankful to Divisão de Gestão Ambiental da Câmara Municipal do Porto for providing an additional number of samples. Four anonymous reviewers provided further comments and suggestions, which improved the first draft of the manuscript.

Funding

We acknowledge the support of Portuguese national funds provided by ‘Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P.’ (FCT), through the strategic project UIDB/04292/2020 granted to MARE and the fellowships SFRH/BD/118862/2016 and SFRH/BD/118861/2016 granted to CSL and JPF, respectively.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by all authors. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Catarina S. Lopes, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Catarina S. Lopes.

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Lopes, C.S., de Faria, J.P., Paiva, V.H. et al. Characterization of anthropogenic materials on yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) nests breeding in natural and urban sites along the coast of Portugal. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-09651-x

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Keywords

  • Gulls
  • Laridae
  • Larus michahellis
  • Nesting ecology
  • Urban
  • Plastic pollution
  • Hatching success