Effects of human disturbance on postnatal growth and baseline corticosterone in a long-lived bird

Watson, H., Monaghan, P. , Heidinger, B. J. and Bolton, M. (2021) Effects of human disturbance on postnatal growth and baseline corticosterone in a long-lived bird. Conservation Physiology, 9(1), coab052. (doi: 10.1093/conphys/coab052) (PMID:34257995) (PMCID:PMC8271141)

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Prolonged or repeated episodes of environmental stress could be especially detrimental for developing young, via impaired growth or development. Despite this, most studies investigating the effects of human recreational and tourism activities have focused on adults. An increasing demand for nature-based tourism in remote locations means that many seabirds, which have evolved largely in the absence of predators and humans, are being exposed to novel pressures. The slow-growing semi-precocial nestlings of the European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus experience higher mortality rates in nests exposed to human recreational disturbance. Here, we examine whether surviving nestlings reared in disturbed areas are also affected via changes in growth trajectories and baseline circulating glucocorticoids. Nestlings reared in high-disturbance areas displayed delayed mass growth, and we found weak evidence for slower rates of mass gain and tarsus growth, compared with nestlings reared in undisturbed areas. There were no differences in wing growth, consistent with prioritization of long wings, important for post-fledging survival. A tendency for a less marked age-related decline in corticosterone (CORT) in disturbed nestlings offers limited evidence that changes in growth trajectories were mediated by baseline CORT. However, disturbed nestlings could have experienced overall higher GC exposure if the acute GC response was elevated. ‘Catch-up’ growth enabled high-disturbance nestlings to overcome early constraints and achieve a similar, or even larger, asymptotic body size and mass as low-disturbance nestlings. While catch-up growth has been shown to carry costs for parents and offspring, the effects of disturbance were slight and considerably smaller than growth alterations driven by variation in environmental conditions between years. Nonetheless, effects of human recreational activities could be exacerbated under higher levels of human disturbance or in the presence of multiple pressures, as imposed by present rapid rates of environmental change.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Pat and Watson, Miss Hannah
Authors: Watson, H., Monaghan, P., Heidinger, B. J., and Bolton, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Conservation Physiology
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):2051-1434
Published Online:08 July 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s) 2021
First Published:First published in Conservation Physiology 9(1):coab052
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
160786Doctoral Training Grant 2009-16Julian DowBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/F016700/1MCSB - Integrative & Systems Biology
164901The ecological significance of telomere dynamics:environments, individuals and inheritancePatricia MonaghanEuropean Research Council (ERC)20100317/FP7-268926Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine