Enrichment of trace elements in colonies of the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) in the Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia-NW Spain)

De La Peña-Lastra, S., Pérez-Alberti, A. e Otero, X.L., 2019. Enrichment of trace elements in colonies of the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) in the Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia-NW Spain). Science of The Total Environment, 648, pp.1536-1548.


Marine-derived nutrients are known accumulate in seabird breeding colonies due to the deposition of nutrient-rich biological materials, thus greatly altering the functioning and dynamics of these terrestrial ecosystems. Here we present the results of a sampling survey carried out during three years in yellow-legged gull colonies in the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park (NW Spain) with the aim of evaluating the influence of the colonies on the accumulation of trace elements, including micronutrients (Cu, Zn, Se, Co, Mo, Ni) and toxic elements (Cr, Cd, Hg, Pb, As, Ag), in the surrounding environments. For this purpose, we analysed samples of biological materials produced by the seabirds (pellets, excrement, feathers, eggs) and of soil, plants and inland water from several different subcolonies and control zones without seabirds.

The concentrations of most of the elements were higher in excrement and pellets (mean values: Zn: 152, As: 50 mg kg−1, Cd: 6, Co: 5 mg kg−1) than in feathers and eggs. The flow of trace elements into the breeding colonies, considering only the excrement, revealed a very high level of trace element deposition for a supposedly pristine environment (Zn: 2667, Cd: 70, Cu: 315, As: 64 g ha−1). The total concentrations of trace elements in soil were consistent with the long-term impact of the seabirds. Thus, the values in areas which this impact was greatest were significantly higher than in the control zones, particularly considering the most labile geochemical fractions of the soil. The concentrations of some elements (i.e. Co, As, Cd) were also higher in the inland waters in the colonies than in control zones. Finally, the concentration of trace elements in plants varied depending on the species and element considered.

Trace elements in biomaterials and soils from a Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) colony in the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park (NW Spain).

 


Otero, X.L., de la Peña-Lastra, S., Romero, D., Nobrega, G.N., Ferreira, T.O., Pérez-Alberti, A., 2018. Trace elements in biomaterials and soils from a Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) colony in the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park (NW Spain). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 133, pp.144-149.


Seabird colonies drastically transform the sites that they inhabit. Although the influence of seabirds on nutrient cycling has been investigated in numerous studies, the effects on trace elements has scarcely been considered. In this study, we determined the total contents of 9 trace elements in biomaterials (excrement, pellets, feathers and eggs) and soils in relation to the presence the Yellow-legged gull Larus michahellis. The concentrations of Zn, Cu and As were particularly high in the pellets and excrement. The total contents of the trace elements were significantly higher in the soils in the sub-colonies in which Yellow-legged gulls predominate than in soil from the control zone (with no gulls). The difference was even higher for the most reactive geochemical fractions. We observed that the oxidizable fraction was the most relevant fraction for almost all trace elements, indicating the importance of organic matter in trace element retention in sandy soils.

Effects of nesting yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans Pallas) on the heavy metal content of soils in the Cies Islands (Galicia, North-west Spain)

Otero Pérez, X. L. Effects of nesting yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans Pallas) on the heavy metal content of soils in the Cies Islands (Galicia, North-west Spain). Marine Pollution Bulletin 36, 267–272 (1998).


Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn levels were determined in faeces of the yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans in Galicia (NW Spain), and in soils from three breeding and one reference site. The levels of Cd, Cu, Zn and Pb in the soil were significantly higher at the site with highest gull density and with the longest history of use as a breeding site (Percha) than at the reference site. Zn levels were higher than levels of the other metals in all soil and faeces samples. Mean levels of metals in faeces were 305 mg kg-1 (Zn), 60 mg kg-1 (Cu), 40 mg kg-1 (Pb), 9.8 mg kg-1 (Cr) and 5.8 mg kg-1 (Cd).

Phosphorus in seagull colonies and the effect on the habitats. The case of yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) in the Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia-NW Spain)

Otero, X. L. et al. Phosphorus in seagull colonies and the effect on the habitats. The case of yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) in the Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia-NW Spain). Science of The Total Environment 532, 383–397 (2015).


During the period 1980–2000, the yellow-legged gull population underwent exponential growth due to an increase in the availability of anthropogenic food resources. The aim of this study was to highlight the effect of the gull colonies on the P soil cycle and the associated effects on coastal ecosystems. Samples of soil, water and faecal material were collected in a colony of yellow-legged gulls (Cíes Islands) and in a control area. Four sampling plots were installed in the study areas, and samples were collected in summer and winter in 1997 and 2011. Sample analysis included soil characterization and determination of the total P content (TP), bioavailable-P and fractionated-P forms in the soils and faecal material. The 31P NMR technique was also used to determine organic P forms. Clear differences between the gull colony soils and the control soil were observed. The TP was 3 times higher in the gull colony soil, and the bioavailable P was 30 times higher than in the control soil. The P forms present at highest concentrations in the faecal material (P-apatite, P-residual and P-humic acid) were also present at high concentrations in the colony soil. The absence of any seasonal or annual differences in P concentration indicates that the P has remained stable in the soil over time, regardless of the changes in the gull population density. The degree of P saturation indicated that soils are saturated with P due to the low concentration of Fe/Al-hydroxides, which is consistent with a high P concentration in the run-off from the colonies. The P output from the colony soils to coastal waters may cause eutrophication of a nearby lagoon and the disappearance of a Zostera marina seagrass meadow. Similarly, the enrichment of P concentration in dune system of Muxieiro may induce irreversible changes in the plant communities.