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Waterbirds as Bioindicators in Coastal Lagoons: Background, Potential Value and Recent Research in Mediterranean Areas pp. 153-184 $100.00
Authors:  (Francisco Robledano Aymerich, Pablo Farinós Celdrán, Department of Ecology and Hidrology, University of Murcia, Espinardo, Spain)
Abstract:
Among the biological components of estuarine systems and other transitional coastal waters, waterbirds are probably the group that has been monitored more intensively and throughout longer time series, especially due to the use of citizen science. Moreover, several authors have reviewed, organized and analyzed critically the role and potential use of waterbirds as bioindicators. Recently, academic research has encouraged more intensive monitoring of waterbirds in the context of bioindication in wetlands and coastal waters. However, in the particular case of coastal lagoons, birds have received little attention compared to research efforts directed to other taxa, ignoring their important role as top predators and underestimating their contribution to various ecological processes. Few studies have included waterbirds as integral components of the food webs in lagoons, relating them to other biota. However, recent studies show that waterbirds respond to changes imposed by a variety of stressors, constituting warning signals against undesirable changes. Waterbirds can be used as bioindicators both at suborganismic and at population-community-ecosystem levels. Either approach requires that the relationships birds establish with habitats and with the ensemble of the lagoon‘s biocoenosis are clarified. As these relationships and the bioindicator role of waterbirds are established in more detail, stands out their usefulness as indicators of impairment in coastal lagoons of similar characteristics, subject to similar impacts with time lags. Studies on the waterbird community of the Mar Menor Lagoon (SE Spain) show the long-term response of populations to variables related to eutrophication and biological changes (proliferations of jellyfish and changes in fish stocks). Studies based on community variation in relation to internal environmental gradients of the lagoon, show spatial responses that can be mapped, and provide a basis for building indices of integrity. This is a relevant issue given the paucity of studies that explore and apply the indicator value of birds in conservation and environmental evaluation, particularly in the Mediterranean and elsewhere in temperate latitudes. Recent studies that integrate the monitoring of different physico-chemical and biotic variables of the lagoon with waterbird numbers and distribution, and research on waterbird trophic ecology based on stable isotope analysis, aim at clarifying the role of waterbirds as top-down controllers in the food webs of coastal lagoons. A role whose monitoring is also important from an applied perspective, given the potential of some waterbirds like cormorants to become conflicting species (through their interaction with fisheries). The application of these monitoring schemes to other Mediterranean lagoons emerges as a valuable tool for assessing and preventing changes in the ecological status of these systems with respect to relatively undisturbed, reference conditions. 


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Waterbirds as Bioindicators in Coastal Lagoons: Background, Potential Value and Recent Research in Mediterranean Areas pp. 153-184