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Argentine ants harm nestlings of the blue tit

The consequences of ant invasions on ecosystems may only become apparent after long periods. In addition, predicting how sensitive native fauna will respond is only possible if the underlying proximate mechanisms of their impact are identified. The attraction of the native and invasive ant community to artificial bird nests was studied, together with reproduction of a wild native songbird over five consecutive breeding seasons in relation to the presence of an invasive ant species. Biometric, reproductive and individual blood parameters of great tits Parus major breeding in invaded as compared to uninvaded sites by Argentine ants Linepithema humile were analysed. Great tits bred preferably in uninvaded territories by the Argentine ant. Moreover, Argentine ants were more abundant at nests in invaded sites, than any native ant species were at uninvaded sites. Further, Argentine ants recruited at the artificial nests more intensively and responded to a larger variety of nest (intact eggs, cracked eggs, faeces, and cracked eggs plus faeces) contents than native species. Although breeding success and adult condition did not vary in relation to invasion status, offspring quality was negatively affected by the presence of Argentine ants. Nestlings reared in invaded sites were lighter, with lower wing/tarsus length ratio and had a reduced nutritional condition and altered oxidative stress balance as measured from several blood parameters. The interspersed distribution and small distance between invaded versus uninvaded territories suggest that ant presence affects nestling condition through direct interference at the nest. These results highlight the importance of evaluating the proximate effects like physiological parameters of the native fauna, when studying invasive ant-native bird interactions. informacion[at] Álvarez et al (2020) Breeding consequences for a songbird nesting in Argentine ant' invaded land. Biol Invasions
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From landfills to lakes: gulls as transporters of nutrients

From landfills to lakes: gulls as transporters of nutrients

The lesser black backed gull Larus fuscus is now the second most abundant wintering waterbird in Andalusia, and has increased in numbers in recent years. Fuente de Piedra, the biggest shallow lake in Andalusia and a Ramsar site famous for its flamingo colony, is the principal gulls roosting site in midwinter. Gulls are the most important source of nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the lake during winter through their guano, and feed in four landfills up to 80 km away in Málaga and Córdoba provinces according to GPS data. This study has quantified the amount of nutrients gulls import to Fuente de Piedra lake. The obtained results provide a vital step to understand the effects of waterbirds in so called "guanotrophication". Gulls take advantage of easy pickings at landfills for feeding, so they can transport an important amount external of nutrients to the lake, where they spend a large proportion of the day. GPS data were used to determine at which landfills gulls were feeding, and the relative importance of each. Although gulls are regularly counted at the lake, gulls are early risers and GPS data showed that most of them had already flown off towards landfills when counting was carried out, and this allowed correcting the counts for missing birds. Movement data were also used to estimate the amount of daytime gulls spent at the lake over different winters, which determines how much of their guano is deposited in the lake. Laboratory analyses of faeces and pellets completed the calculations of nutrient inputs. As estimated in this study, gull contribution seems to be the most important nutrient source in winter with about 10 kg of nitrogen per Ha and 2 kg of phosphorus per Ha. This may bring implications within the ecosystem, whose state seems already eutrophied. Gull excreta is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, which combined with other nutrient sources such as flamingos, run-off or inputs from the town's Wastewater Treatment Plant, may lead to an excess of nutrients in the lake. There are signs this has caused effects such as the loss of higher plants and a boom in algae. The water levels of Fuente de Piedra vary a lot from one year to another, and low water levels may increase the impact of gull guano. The study found that gulls preferred to spend more time in the lake when water levels were around 30 cm, when islands were available for roosting, and this can lead to increases in nutrient concentrations. This is the first time GPS data is combined with other methods to determine the origin and quantities of nutrients into aquatic systems, and it is the first step to understand the connection between anthropogenic landfills with aquatic bodies. informacion[at] Martín-Vélez et al (2019). Quantifying nutrient inputs by gulls to a fluctuating lake aided by movement ecology methods. Freshwater Biol