The Rapid Effects of Yellow-Legged Gull (Larus michahellis) Colony on Dune Habitats and Plant Landscape in the Atlantic Islands National Park (NW Spain)

Peña-Lastra, S.D.L., Torre, F., Carballeira, R., Santiso, M.J., Pérez-Alberti, A. and Otero, X.L., 2022. The Rapid Effects of Yellow-Legged Gull (Larus michahellis) Colony on Dune Habitats and Plant Landscape in the Atlantic Islands National Park (NW Spain). Land, 11(2), p.258.


The Atlantic Islands of Galicia Maritime/Terrestrial National Park hosts one of the largest breeding colonies of yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) in the world. In 2002, a new yellow-legged gull breeding colony was established on the Punta Muxieiro dune complex, which also harbors rare and threatened plant species and habitat types of community interest according to Directive 92/43/EEC. This study assesses the effect of this colony on two habitats of community interest: white dunes and grey dunes. For this purpose, plant cover and soil properties, composition, and nutrient content were monitored in plots with different gull densities. Moreover, historic aerial images were compiled to observe changes in the plant landscape of the dune system. The results showed that, despite the recentness of the occupation of the dune system by yellow-legged gull species, significant changes in acidic–alkaline processes and nutrient availability were already observed in soils. Soils in plots with higher gull density showed more acidic pH values and a higher content of the most labile N and P fractions. Moreover, a decrease in plant cover and number of species was also demonstrated in plots with higher gull densities. Finally, the presence of ruderal and alien species such as Urtica membranacea and Parietaria judaica was also observed..


Ingestion and dispersal: direct and indirect effects of frugivores on seed viability and germination of Corema album (Empetraceae)

Calviño-Cancela, M., 2004. Ingestion and dispersal: direct and indirect effects of frugivores on seed viability and germination of Corema album (Empetraceae). Acta Oecologica, 26(1), pp.55-64.

The effect of gulls, blackbirds and rabbits on the viability and germination of Corema album seeds are compared. Frugivores can affect seed viability and germination (1) directly, through the effect of ingestion and (2) indirectly, dispersing seeds to different sites with different conditions. These two major factors in the quality of a seed disperser are not necessarily concordant in direction and magnitude. Gulls and blackbirds have similar direct effects, being much better than those of rabbits, due to the low probability of germination of seeds within rabbit pellets. Seed germination occurs mainly in the open ground, particularly in the sparse scrub, and is very low under vegetation cover. This pattern becomes crucial determining the indirect effects of seed dispersers that will depend on their capacity to carry seeds to the most suitable sites for germination. Gulls and rabbits disperse most of seeds to open ground, exerting a positive indirect effect on germination, whereas blackbirds disperse seeds mainly under shrubs, thus exerting a negative indirect effect. Direct and indirect effects on seed germination are concordant for gulls but discordant for blackbirds and rabbits. Gulls were the best dispersers; the overall probability of germination for a seed dispersed by gulls was 17.59%. The quality of blackbirds and rabbits was relatively low (3.49% and 1.17%, respectively). Frugivores seem to be essential for germination of C. album seeds, not as much for their direct effects but for their ability to carry seeds to suitable sites.

Fruit consumers and seed dispersers of the rare shrub Corema album, Empetraceae, in coastal sand dunes

Calviño-Cancela, M., 2005. Fruit consumers and seed dispersers of the rare shrub Corema album, Empetraceae, in coastal sand dunes. Rev Ecol (Terre Vie), 60, pp.97-106.

Avec des goélands, des lapins, des mammifères carnivores, des petits lézards et des passériformes, le cortège des frugivores qui consomment les fruits de Corema album (Empetraceae), un arbuste rare, est remarquable par sa diversité et parce que quelques espèces sont des disséminateurs de graines inhabituels. Les merles et les goélands jouent un rôle important dans les îles Cíes. Les goélands sont aussi des disséminateurs importants dans la baie de Trece, mais ne semblent pas jouer un rôle important à São Jacinto où les mammifères carnivores jouent le rôle prédominant. Dans les îles Cíes, les observations des visites alimentaires ont montré que le nombre des visites aux plantes par les disséminateurs est le meilleur indice de leur importance quantitative, suivi du nombre de fruits manipulés par visite, alors que l’efficacité de la manipulation des fruits n’a eu qu’un effet mineur. Le nombre des fruits manipulés par visite, mais non la proportion de fruits avalés entiers, s’est avéré significativement
lié â la taille des oiseaux.

Seed and microsite limitations of recruitment and the impacts of post-dispersal seed predation at the within population level

Calviño-Cancela, M., 2007. Seed and microsite limitations of recruitment and the impacts of post-dispersal seed predation at the within population level. Plant Ecology, 192(1), pp.35-44.

Seed predation may cause important seed losses in plant populations, but its impact on the dynamics of populations will depend on the degree of seed or microsite limitations for recruitment. Seed losses will only affect recruitment if it is seed limited. The nature of recruitment limitation (seeds or microsites) is usually ascribed to whole plant populations but it may vary within populations among microhabitats and habitats. Thus, the potential impact of seed predation will also vary within the population, being highest where recruitment is seed limited. The impact to the whole population will depend on the spatial concordance between the intensity of seed predation and that of seed limitation. Recruitment limitations (with seed addition experiments), seed predation (with seed removal experiments), and the dynamics of seed availability in the soil (with soil samples taken both after seed dispersal and before the following dispersal event) of the shrub Corema album (Empetraceae) were investigated in dunes in NW Spain, at microhabitats ‘open ground’, ‘underneath C. album’, and ‘underneath C. album’ at two habitats, sparse and dense scrub. The nature of recruitment limitation (seeds vs. microsites) varied within the population. It was seed limited in the microhabitat ‘open ground’ and microsite limited under shrub cover. The spatial patterns of seedling recruitment were unrelated to seed availability but strongly affected by germination requirements. The spatial discordance between seed availability and recruitment implies a crucial constraint for processes affecting seed availability (seed predation but also e.g., dispersal) to impact recruitment. They will not affect its spatial pattern but only its quantity as long as they act in those sites selected by seeds to germinate. Seed predation was highest underneath mother plants and lowest in open ground. Thus, its potential impact is low, as it is centred where recruitment is not seed limited. This study shows that the analysis of seed predation in relation to recruitment limitations at smaller spatial scales within the population provides more insight to understand its impact.

Simplifying methods to assess site suitability for plant recruitment

Calvino-Cancela, M., 2011. Simplifying methods to assess site suitability for plant recruitment. Plant Ecology, 212(8), pp.1375-1383.

Few studies link seed dispersal with its demographic consequences, or provide reliable estimates of seed dispersal effectiveness. One reason is the complexity of measuring the suitability for plant recruitment of seed arrival sites. In this study, I compare three methods that differ in the effort required to measure site suitability for seedling recruitment. All are based on the proportion of seeds that become seedlings (seedling-to-seed ratios). Method I is the most detailed and labour intensive. The fate of seeds was followed throughout the different steps of the recruitment process, from fruit removal until seedling emergence, including both seeds dispersed by different animals and undispersed seeds. Method II is based on seed addition experiments. Seeds were sowed in plots, and seedlings emerging were counted in the following two seasons. In Method III, average seed input during dispersal was measured with soil seed bank samples taken in pre- and post-dispersal periods, and seedling emergence estimated with samples of three seasons. Method II provided results similar to those of Method I, which, conversely, provides more insight in the actual processes driving recruitment. Method III, however, systematically underestimated site suitability (seedling-to-seed ratios) by about 50% as compared to the other methods in all microhabitats studied. Relative instead of absolute indices of site suitability were, however, reliable with this method. Method II and III are significantly less costly and could be good alternatives to Method I for some purposes, simplifying future studies on the demographic consequences of seed dispersal and the effectiveness of dispersers.