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Title

Adapting to a Changing World: Unraveling the Role of Man-Made Habitats as Alternative Feeding Areas for Slender-Billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)

AuthorsRamírez, Francisco ; Navarro, Joan ; Afán, Isabel ; Hobson, Keith A.; Delgado, Antonio; Forero, Manuela G.
Issue Date19-Oct-2012
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 7(10): e47551 (2012)
AbstractCurrent rates of wildlife habitat loss have placed increasing demands on managers to develop, validate and implement tools aimed at improving our ability to evaluate such impacts on wildlife. Here, we present a case study conducted at the Natural Area of Doñana (SW Spain) where remote sensing and stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) analyses of individuals were combined to unravel (1) the effect of variations in availability of natural food resources (i.e. from natural marshes) on reproductive performance of a Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) population, and (2) the role of two adjacent, artificial systems (a fish farm and saltmines) as alternate anthropogenic feeding areas. Based on long-term (1983–2004) remote-sensing, we inferred the average extent of flooded area at the marshland (a proxy to natural resource availability) annually. Estimated flooded areas (ranging from extreme drought [ca. 151 ha, 1995] to high moisture [15,049 ha, 2004]) were positively related to reproductive success of gulls (estimated for the 1993–2004 period, and ranging from ca. 0 to 1.7 fledglings per breeding pairs), suggesting that habitat availability played a role in determining their reproductive performance. Based on blood δ13C and δ15N values of fledglings, 2001–2004, and a Bayesian isotopic mixing model, we conclude that saltmines acted as the main alternative foraging habitat for gulls, with relative contributions increasing as the extent of marshland decreased. Although adjacent, anthropogenic systems have been established as the preferred breeding sites for this gull population, dietary switches towards exploitation of alternative (anthropogenic) food resources negatively affected the reproductive output of this species, thus challenging the perception that these man-made systems are necessarily a reliable buffer against loss of natural feeding habitats. The methodology and results derived from this study could be extended to a large suite of threatened natural communities worldwide, thus providing a useful framework for management and conservation
Description11 pages, 5 figures, 1 table
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0047551
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/59883
DOI10.1371/journal.pone.0047551
ISSN1932-6203
E-ISSN1932-6203
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