Seabirds drive plant species turnover on small Mediterranean islands at the expense of native taxa
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The analysis of long-term floristic changes was conducted on nine west-Mediterranean limestone islands (size range: 2–95 ha) which have recently undergone a severe demographic explosion in their yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans colonies. A comparison of past and present plant inventories was used to quantify extinction-colonization events, both from a classical biogeographical perspective (per island approach) and a metapopulational perspective (per species approach). In the first approach, floristic turnover intensity was negatively related to island area and positively to gull nesting density, but was independent of island isolation. In the second, species turnover rate was compared with a set of plant species life history traits (dispersal mode, Grime CSR strategy, growth form, biogeographical type). Plants which exhibited the highest turnover rate were primarily ruderal, annual, wind-dispersed species with a wide geographic range. The severe disturbance induced by seabird activities has tended to select and favour some adapted plant species groups at the expense of indigenous island taxa. The relationships between specific turnover intensity and plant life history traits justify using the metapopulation approach and point to the importance of interspecific variations in extinction-colonization patterns.
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