Forage digestibility and intake by lesser snow geese: effects of dominance and resource heterogeneity

Oecologia
By: , and 

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Abstract

We measured forage intake, digestibility, and retention time for 11 free-ranging, human-imprinted lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) as they consumed underground stembases of tall cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) on an arctic staging area in northeastern Alaska. Geese fed in small patches (=21.5 m2) of forage that made up ≤3% of the study area and consisted of high-quality “aquatic graminoid” and intermediate-quality “wet sedge” vegetation types. Dominant geese spent more time feeding in aquatic graminoid areas (r=0.61), but less total time feeding and more time resting than subdominant geese. Subdominant geese were displaced to areas of wet sedge where cotton-grass was a smaller proportion of underground biomass. Geese metabolized an average of 48% of the organic matter in stembases and there was a positive correlation between dominance and organic matter metabolizability (r=0.61). Total mean retention time of forage was 1.37 h and dry matter intake was 14.3 g/h. Snow geese that stage on the coastal plain of the Beaufort Sea likely use an extensive area because they consume a large mass of forage and exploit habitats that are patchily distributed and make up a small percentage of the landscape. Individual variation in nutrient absorption may result from agonistic interactions in an environment where resources are heterogeneously distributed.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Forage digestibility and intake by lesser snow geese: effects of dominance and resource heterogeneity
Series title Oecologia
DOI 10.1007/BF00334646
Volume 108
Issue 2
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 232
Last page 240
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Arctic National Wildlife Refuge