Spatial variation and biovectoring of metals in gull faeces

Víctor Martín-vélez, F. Hortas, M.A. Taggart, A.j. Green, N.J. O'Hanlon, M.i. Sánchez

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We assessed the spatial variation in concentrations of ten metals in faeces of the lesser black-backed gull (LBBG) Larus fuscus wintering at seven localities in South-West Spain. We found high concentrations of metals in gull faeces, with several elements (As, Cu, Mo, Pb, Zn) locally exceeding (by 2 to 11 times) derived Lowest Effect Level (LEL) values. We also found strong spatial variation, related to the main pollution sources associated with the different sites. Faeces from Chipiona Port (Gulf of Cádiz) showed the highest levels of As; Cetina saltpans (Bay of Cádiz) ranked first for Pb, Zn and Mo, which was consistent with historic mining and industrial pollution; Doñana ricefields showed the highest levels of Mn, a highly available element in flooded areas; while landfills ranked first for Cd, Co, Cr, Cu and Ni, potentially associated with electronic waste. Furthermore, we demonstrate how faecal analysis can be used to quantify biovectoring of metals into specific localities, using LBBG movement ecology and census data. At Fuente de Piedra, a shallow, closed-basin lake important for waterbirds, we show that metal inputs by LBBG have increased in recent years, and long-term deposition (e.g., of Pb) may impact aquatic communities and ecological processes in this Ramsar site.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107534
JournalEcological Indicators
Early online date26 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • Larus fuscus
  • Landfills
  • Metalloid
  • Ricefields
  • Shallow lakes
  • Faecal analysis


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