University of Oulu

Beard KH, Choi RT, Leffler AJ, Carlson LG, Kelsey KC, Schmutz JA, et al. (2019) Migratory goose arrival time plays a larger role in influencing forage quality than advancing springs in an Arctic coastal wetland. PLoS ONE 14(3): e0213037.

Migratory goose arrival time plays a larger role in influencing forage quality than advancing springs in an Arctic coastal wetland

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Author: Beard, Karen H.1; Choi, Ryan T.1; Leffler, A. Joshua2;
Organizations: 1Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University and the Ecology Center, Logan, UT, United States of America
2Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, United States of America
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska-Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, United States of America
4US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK, United States of America
5UArctic, Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.3 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Public Library of Science, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-09-11


With warmer springs, herbivores migrating to Arctic breeding grounds may experience phenological mismatches between their energy demands and the availability of high quality forage. Yet, how the timing of the start of the season and herbivore arrival influences forage quality is often unknown. In coastal western Alaska, approximately one million migratory geese arrive each spring to breed, where foliar %N and C:N ratios are linked to gosling survival and population growth. We conducted a three-year experiment where we manipulated the start of the growing season using warming chambers and grazing times using captive Pacific black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) to examine how the timing of these events influences the quality of an important forage species. Our results suggest that grazing timing plays a much greater role than an advanced growing season in determining forage quality. All top models included grazing timing, and suggested that compared to typical grazing timing, early grazing significantly reduced foliar %C by 6% and C:N ratios by 16%, while late goose grazing significantly reduced foliar %N by 15% and increased foliar C:N ratios by 21%. While second-ranking top models included the effect of season, the advanced growing season effect was not significant and only reduced %N by 4%, increased %C by <1%, and increased C:N ratios by 5% compared to an ambient growing season. In summary, in years where geese arrive early, they will consume higher quality forage when they arrive and throughout the season, while in years that geese arrive late they will consume lower quality forage when they arrive and for the remainder of the season. When the growing season starts has only a minor influence on this pattern. Our findings suggest that cues determining migration and arrival times to breeding areas are important factors influencing forage quality for geese in western Alaska.

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Series: PLoS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
ISSN-E: 1932-6203
ISSN-L: 1932-6203
Volume: 14
Issue: 3
Article number: e0213037
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213037
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Work was funded by NSF awards 1304523 (KHB) and 1304879 (JAW, AJL), partly off NSF award 1633756 (RTC) and the Utah State University Ecology Center (RTC, LGC). This research was supported by the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station and Utah State University, and approved as journal paper 9147 (KHB).
Copyright information: This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.