Literature type: Scientific
Journal: Ecology and Evolution
Volume: 10 , Pages: 5281-5292.
Full reference: Pingyang, Z., Ye-ai, Z., Yonghong, X., Siqi, Z., Xinsheng, C., Feng, L., Zhengmiao, D., Hong, Z. & Wei, T. 2020. Hydrology-driven responses of herbivorous geese in relation to changes in food quantity and quality. Ecology and Evolution 10: 5281-5292. https://www.dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6272
East Dongting Lake is a Ramsar site and a particularly important wintering ground for herbivorous geese along the East Asian‐Australasian Flyway. The operation of the Three Gorges Dam has changed the water regime and has a significant impact on wetland ecosystems downstream. We studied the responses of two sympatric herbivorous goose species, the Lesser white‐fronted goose Anser erythropus and Bean goose Anser fabalis, to habitat change by investigating their food conditions, habitat selection, and diet composition in the wintering periods of 2016/2017 and 2017/2018, which had early and late water recession, respectively. It was expected that the contrasting water regimes would result in different food conditions and geese responses. The results showed that the food quality and quantity differed significantly between winters. As responses to the high‐quantity/low‐quality food during 2016/2017, more geese switched to feeding on mudflat and exploited plants such as dicotyledons and moss. The tall swards of Carex spp. (dominant plants in the meadow) that developed during the first growing season decreased the food accessibility during the second growing season and hindered the exploitation of newly generated shoots by the geese, which was further confirmed by our clipping control experiment. Nearly all the geese chose to feed on meadow, and Carex spp. made up the majority of their diet in 2017/2018 when there was more low‐quantity/high‐quality food. Compared with the globally vulnerable Lesser white‐fronted geese, the larger‐sized Bean geese seemed to be less susceptible to winter food shortages and exhibited more stable responses. We concluded that the food quality–quantity condition was the external factor influencing the geese responses, while morphological and physiological traits could be the internal factors causing different responses between the two species. This study enhanced the understanding of the influence that habitat change exerts on herbivorous geese in their wintering site in the context of the Three Gorges Dam operation. We suggested that regulating hydrological regime was important in terms of wetland management and species conservation.
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