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Of mice and mallards: Positive indirect effects of coexisting prey on waterfowl nest success

Oikos

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DOI:10.1034/j.1600-0706.2002.11802.x

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Abstract

Coexisting prey species interact indirectly via their shared predators when one prey type influences predation rates of the second prey type. In a temperate system where the predominant shared predator is a generalist, I studied the indirect effects of rodent populations on waterfowl nest success, both within the nesting season among sites and among years. Among six to ten upland fields (14 to 27 ha), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) nest success was positively correlated with rodent abundance in all three years of the study. After removing year effects, mallard nest success remained positively correlated with the relative abundance of rodents. Of the rodent species present, California voles (Microtus californicus) were the most important coexisting prey type influencing nest success. Among years, mallard nest success was positively correlated with vole abundance; the asymptotic relationship suggests a threshold response to vole abundance, beyond which predators become satiated and additional voles do little to affect nest success. I tested and rejected three alternative explanations for the observed positive correlation between mallard nest success and rodent abundance that do not involve an indirect effect of coexisting prey populations. The influences of dense nesting cover, nesting density, and predator activity did not explain the observed patterns of nest success. These results suggest that rodent populations buffer predation on waterfowl nests, both within and among years, via the behavioral responses of shared predators to coexisting prey.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Of mice and mallards: Positive indirect effects of coexisting prey on waterfowl nest success
Series title:
Oikos
DOI:
10.1034/j.1600-0706.2002.11802.x
Volume:
99
Issue:
3
Year Published:
2002
Language:
English
Publisher:
Wiley
Contributing office(s):
Western Ecological Research Center
Description:
12 p.
First page:
469
Last page:
480