Anthropogenic impact on macrobenthic communities and consequences for shorebirds in Northern France: A complex response

TitreAnthropogenic impact on macrobenthic communities and consequences for shorebirds in Northern France: A complex response
Type de publicationJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuteursRolet, C, Spilmont, N, Davoult, D, Goberville, E, Luczak, C
JournalBiological Conservation
Mots-clésAnthropogenic impact, Coastal conservation, Complexity, Macrobenthic communities, Shorebirds

© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Shorebird populations are declining worldwide due to the combined effect of climate change and anthropogenic forcing, the ongoing coastal urbanisation amplifying the alteration of their habitat in both rate and magnitude. By focusing on a highly anthropogenically-influenced region in Northern France, we studied the impact of a seawall construction on wintering shorebird populations through potential alterations in the abundance and availability of their food resources. We concurrently investigated changes in the spatial distribution of muddy-sand beach macrobenthic communities between two periods of contrasting anthropogenic impacts and examined year-to-year trends of wintering shorebirds. Our study reveals that the seawall construction led to a major spatial reorganisation of the macrobenthic communities with a drastic reduction of the muddy-sand community. However, no relation between macrobenthic changes and shorebird abundances was detected. Fluctuations in shorebird abundances appeared to be congruent with flyway population trends. This result suggests that the response of shorebirds to human-induced perturbations is much more complex than expected. While an assessment of potential disturbances induced by coastal engineering constructions is needed, the pathways by which alterations could propagate through an ecosystem are not linear and as such difficult to determine. Ecosystems appear as complex adaptive systems in which macroscopic dynamics emerge from non-linear interactions at entangled smaller/larger scales. Our results confirm that an in-depth knowledge of the local, regional and global factors that influence trends of shorebirds and their habitat use is essential for accurate and effective management and conservation strategies.