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Dramatic Improvements in Beach Water Quality Following Gull Removal

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journal contribution
posted on 18.09.2012, 00:00 by Reagan R. Converse, Julie L. Kinzelman, Elizabeth A. Sams, Edward Hudgens, Alfred P. Dufour, Hodon Ryu, Jorge W. Santo-Domingo, Catherine A. Kelty, Orin C. Shanks, Shawn D. Siefring, Richard A. Haugland, Timothy J. Wade
Gulls are often cited as important contributors of fecal contamination to surface waters, and some recreational beaches have used gull control measures to improve microbial water quality. In this study, gulls were chased from a Lake Michigan beach using specially trained dogs, and water quality improvements were quantified. Fecal indicator bacteria and potentially pathogenic bacteria were measured before and during gull control using culture methods and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Harassment by dogs was an effective method of gull control: average daily gull populations fell from 665 before to 17 during intervention; and a significant reduction in the density of a gull-associated marker was observed (p < 0.001). Enterococcus spp. and Escherichia coli densities were also significantly reduced during gull control (p < 0.001 and p = 0.012, respectively for culture methods; p = 0.012 and p = 0.034, respectively for qPCR). Linear regression results indicate that a 50% reduction in gulls was associated with a 38% and 29% decrease in Enterococcus spp. and E. coli densities, respectively. Potentially human pathogenic bacteria were detected on 64% of days prior to gull control and absent during gull intervention, a significant reduction (p = 0.005). This study demonstrates that gull removal can be a highly successful beach remedial action to improve microbial water quality.

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