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 (x̄=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 Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Forage digestibility and intake by lesser snow geese: effects of dominance and resource heterogeneity|
|Contributing office(s)||Alaska Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Arctic National Wildlife Refuge|