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Do invasive species undergo metapopulation dynamics? A case study of the invasive Caspian gull, Larus cachinnans, in Poland

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Abstract Aim 

The mechanisms of initial dispersal and habitat occupancy by invasive alien species are fundamental ecological problems. Most tests of metapopulation theory are performed on local population systems that are stable or in decline. In the current study we were interested in the usefulness of metapopulation theory to study patch occupancy, local colonization, extinction and the abundance of the invasive Caspian gull (Larus cachinnans) in its initial invasion stages. Location 

Waterbodies in Poland. Methods 

Characteristics of the habitat patches (waterbodies, 35 in total) occupied by breeding pairs of Caspian gulls and an equal sample of randomly selected unoccupied patches were compared with t-tests. Based on presence–absence data from 1989 to 2006 we analysed factors affecting the probability of local colonization, extinction and the size of local populations using generalized linear models. Results 

Occupied habitat patches were significantly larger and less isolated (from other habitat patches and other local populations) and were located closer to rivers than empty patches. The proximity of local food resources (fish ponds, refuse dumps) positively affected the occurrence of breeding pairs. The probability of colonization was positively affected by patch area, and negatively by distances to fish ponds, nearest habitat patch, nearest breeding colony and to a river, and by higher forest cover around the patch boundaries. The probability of extinction was lower in patches with a higher number of breeding pairs and with a greater area of islets. The extinction probability increased with distances to other local populations, other habitat patches, fish ponds and to refuse dumps and with a higher cover of forest around the patch boundaries. The size of the local population decreased with distances to the nearest habitat patch, local population, river, fish pond and refuse dump. Local abundance was also positively affected by the area of islets in the patch. Main conclusions 

During the initial stages of the invasion of Caspian gulls in Poland the species underwent metapopulation-like dynamics with frequent extinctions from colonized habitat patches. The results prove that metapopulation theory may be a useful conceptual framework for predicting which habitats are more vulnerable to invasion.

Keywords: Birds; Larus cachinnans; Poland; colonization; corridors; food resources; isolation; local extinctions; patch occupancy; patch size

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ornithological Station, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Nadwiślańska 108, 80-680 Gdańsk, Poland 2: Institute of Zoology, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71 C, 60-625 Poznań, Poland

Publication date: September 1, 2010


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