Gulls living in cities as overlooked seed dispersers within and outside urban environments

Martín-Vélez, Víctor and Montalvo, Tomás and Afán, Isabel and Sánchez-Márquez, Antoni and Aymí, Raül and Figuerola, Jordi and Lovas-Kiss, Ádám and Navarro, Joan (2022) Gulls living in cities as overlooked seed dispersers within and outside urban environments. SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT. ISSN 0048-9697

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The yellow-legged gull is an opportunistic and generalist bird that has colonised urban areas, where it has found very favourable trophic resources but also causes disturbance to humans and damage to infrastructure. Here, we investigated the potential role that gulls play in the dispersal of plants in Barcelona, a highly populated city of northeastern Spain. We analysed the stomach contents of 145 chicks collected in urban nests and reported the presence of seeds of 27 plant taxa. We then developed a plant dispersal model based on the movements of 20 GPS-tracked yellow-legged gulls breeding in the city of Barcelona. We estimated seed dispersal distances, seed shadows and per- centage of seeds reaching habitats suitable for seeds regurgitated in pellets and those excreted in faeces. Seven of the 27 plant taxa found in the stomachs were alien taxa to Spain. Average dispersal distances of plant seeds by gulls were around 700 m, but maximum dispersal distances reached up to 35 km. Dispersal distances and seed spatial patterns did not differ between faeces and pellet models, as most strongly depended on gull movements. About 95% of the seeds were dispersed within urban environments and between 20 and 30% reached suitable habitats for seed deposition (urban woodlands, green urban parks and urban grasslands). Urban gulls frequently dispersed seeds (including alien species) within urban habitats, both via direct consumption or via secondary dispersal after consuming granivorous birds that had ingested the seeds, such as pigeons or parakeets. Urban planning for Barcelona is based on native plant species, and thus, special attention should be paid to alien plants dispersed by birds, which could pose a risk to native biodiversity in urban ecosystems.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science / természettudomány > QK Botany / növénytan > QK30 Plant ecology. Plant ethology / növényökológia
Q Science / természettudomány > QK Botany / növénytan > QK50 Plant geography (phytogeography) / növényföldrajz
Depositing User: Dr. Ádám Lovas-Kiss
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2022 09:04
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2023 08:02

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