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Collapse of a protector species drives secondary endangerment in waterbird communities
- Pöysä, Hannu, Lammi, Esa, Pöysä, Silvo, Väänänen, Veli-Matti
- Biological conservation 2019 v.230 pp. 75-81
- Chroicocephalus, Larus ridibundus, breeding, conservation status, defensive behavior, habitats, lakes, nests, population dynamics, predators, trophic levels, water birds, Finland
- Interactions and dependence between species can transmit the effects of species declines within and between trophic levels, resulting in secondary endangerments and, in some cases, extinctions. Many mixed-species avian breeding aggregations commonly have a protector species whose aggressive nest defense is used by other species to defend their nests. Disappearance of the protector species may have population demographic consequences on the dependent species. Aggressive nest defense behavior of small colonial gulls, such as the black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), is used by many waterbird species to gain protection against predators. We used data from 15 local waterbird communities in Finland to study long-term changes and dynamics of breeding numbers of other waterbirds as a response to long-term changes and dynamics of black-headed gull colonies. We found that breeding numbers of many species tracked long-term changes in the size of black-headed gull colonies. This was true even after controlling for a common trend in the size of the black-headed gull colony and the breeding numbers of the other species. The trend-controlled positive temporal association with black-headed gull was relatively stronger in species that nest in similar habitats of a lake as the black-headed gull, and in species that have a more critical conservation status due to drastic population decline. Our results suggest that the overall decline of black-headed gull colonies has resulted in secondary endangerment of many other species in waterbird communities.