Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

Effects of pollution on land snail abundance, size and diversity as resources for pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca

List of Authors: Eeva T, Rainio K, Suominen O


Publication year: 2010

Journal: Science of the Total Environment


Journal acronym: SCI TOTAL ENVIRON

Number in series: 19

Volume number: 408

Issue number: 19

Number of pages: 5

ISSN: 0048-9697


Passerine birds need extra calcium during their breeding for developing egg shells and proper growth of nestling skeleton. Land snails are an important calcium source for many passerines and human-induced changes in snail populations may pose a severe problem for breeding birds. We studied from the bird's viewpoint how air pollution affects the shell mass, abundance and diversity of land snail communities along a pollution gradient of a copper smelter. We sampled remnant snail shells from the nests of an insectivorous passerine, the pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca, to find out how the availability of land snails varies along the pollution gradient. The total snail shell mass increased towards the pollution source but declined abruptly in the vicinity of the smelter. This spatial variation in shell mass was evident also within a single snail species and could not be wholly explained by spatially varying snail numbers or species composition. Instead, the total shell mass was related to their shell size, individuals being largest at the moderately polluted areas. Smaller shell size suggests inferior growth of snails in the most heavily polluted area. Our study shows that pollution affects the diversity, abundance (available shell mass) and individual quality of land snails, posing reproductive problems for birds that rely on snails as calcium sources during breeding. There are probably both direct pollution-related (heavy metal and calcium levels) and indirect (habitat change) effects behind the observed changes in snail populations. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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