Population control of an overabundant species achieved through consecutive anthropogenic perturbations

Ana Payo-Payo* (Corresponding Author), Daniel Oro, Jose Manuel Igual, Llui S. Jover, Carolina Sanpera, Giacomo Tavecchia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The control of overabundant vertebrates is often problematic. Much work has focused on population-level responses and overabundance due to anthropogenic subsidies. However, far less work has been directed at investigating responses following the removal of subsidies. We investigate the consequences of two consecutive perturbations, the closure of a landfill and an inadvertent poisoning event, on the trophic ecology (d13C, d15N, and d34S), survival, and population size of an overabundant generalist seabird species, the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis). We expected that the landfill closure would cause a strong dietary shift and the inadvertent poisoning a decrease in gull population size. As a long-lived species, we also anticipated adult survival to be buffered against the decrease in food availability but not against the inadvertent poisoning event. Stable isotope analysis confirmed the dietary shift towards marine resources after the disappearance of the landfill. Although the survival model was inconclusive, it did suggest that the perturbations had a negative effect on survival, which was followed by a recovery back to average values. Food limitation likely triggered dispersal to other populations, while poisoning may have increased mortality; these two processes were likely responsible for the large fall in population size that occurred after the two consecutive perturbations. Life-history theory suggests that perturbations may encourage species to halt existing breeding investment in order to ensure future survival. However, under strong perturbation pulses the resilience threshold might be surpassed and changes in population density can arise. Consecutive perturbations may effectively manage overabundant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2228-2239
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
Early online date1 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

The Appendix is available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/14‐2090.1.sm

Data Availability

Data associated with this paper have been deposited in CEDAI (Centro de Datos Imedea):

M‐ARRAY_Larus michahellis_Dragonera_2007_2013: http://cedai.imedea.uib‐csic.es/geonetwork/srv/es/main.home?uuid=c867ca26‐7b03‐4dcb‐ac26‐7ef0ab536762

Stable Isotope Signature (CNS)_ Larus michahellis_Dragonera 2004_2008_2011_2013: http://cedai.imedea.uib‐csic.es/geonetwork/srv/es/main.home?uuid=280c2ad4‐5204‐4dde‐b703‐2ece5625730f

Nest abundance_Larus michahellis_Dragonera_2008_2013: http://cedai.imedea.uib‐csic.es/geonetwork/srv/es/main.home?uuid=be15329b‐5f71‐4b9c‐bd02‐5cddcb67a553


  • Adult survival
  • Anthropogenic perturbation
  • Dragonera Island
  • Food availability
  • Larus michahellis
  • Pest
  • Population size
  • Predictable anthropogenic food subsidies
  • Seabird
  • Spain
  • Stable isotope analysis
  • Yellow-legged Gull


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