Varying energetic costs of Brent Geese along a continuum from aquatic to agricultural habitats: the importance of habitat-specific energy expenditure

Abstract

We investigated how habitat-specific differences in behavioural patterns affected Brent Goose energetics along a feeding continuum from natural aquatic to inland agricultural habitats. Time-budgets showed that geese using salt-marshes and inland habitats spent more time flying, being aggressive and alert than birds feeding in aquatic areas, and also spent much less time roosting. Frequency of disturbance was found to be higher in terrestrial habitats compared to aquatic habitats. These stress-related behavioural differences between habitats highlight the vulnerability of the species associated with adapting to different food sources. Combining time-budgets with activity-specific BMR-multiplicators showed that activity-based metabolic rates ranged from 1.7 to 2.7 × BMR within habitats exploited by Brent Geese, and emphasized that aquatic areas represent the energetically least expensive foraging habitat for these birds. This is largely the result of habitat-specific variation in time spent flying. These findings underline the importance of measuring habitat-specific behaviour and disturbance when studying avian energetics, and demonstrate the risk of uncritically using allometric relationships between body mass and energy expenditure in energetic studies and impact assessments across different habitats.

Zusammenfassung

Unterschiede in den energetischen Kosten von Ringelgänsen Branta bernicla entlang eines Gradienten von aquatischen zu landwirtschaftlich genutzten Lebensräumen: die Bedeutung des habitatspezifischen Energieaufwandes

Wir untersuchten, auf welche Weise habitatbedingte Unterschiede im Verhaltensmuster den Energiehaushalt von Ringelgänsen Branta bernicla beeinflussten, die entlang eines Gradienten vom natürlichen aquatischen Lebensraum bis hin zu landwirtschaftlich genutztem Binnenland nach Nahrung suchten. Die Zeitbudgets zeigten, dass Gänse, die Salzwiesen und Binnenlandhabitate nutzten, mehr Zeit mit Fliegen verbrachten sowie aggressiver und wachsamer waren als Vögel, die in aquatischen Gebieten nach Futter suchten, und außerdem weniger Zeit mit Rasten zubrachten. In den terrestrischen Habitaten war die Störungshäufigkeit im Vergleich höher als in den aquatischen Lebensräumen. Diese stressbedingten Verhaltensunterschiede zwischen den Lebensräumen betonen die mit der Anpassung an verschiedene Nahrungsquellen einhergehende Angreifbarkeit dieser Vogelart. Die Kombination der Zeitbudgets mit aktivitätsabhängigen Leistungsumsatzfaktoren zeigte, dass innerhalb der von den Ringelgänsen genutzten Habitate die aktivitätsbedingten Stoffwechselraten zwischen dem 1,7- und 2,7-fachen Grundumsatz lagen und veranschaulichte, dass aquatische Lebensräume für diese Vögel die Nahrungsgebiete mit den geringsten energetischen Kosten darstellen. Dies ist zum Großteil auf habitatspezifische Unterschiede im Zeitanteil zurückzuführen, der mit Fliegen verbracht wurde. Die Befunde unterstreichen die Bedeutung der Messung von habitatspezifischen Verhaltensmustern und Störungsfaktoren für energetische Untersuchungen an Vögeln und zeigen die Gefahr der unkritischen Verwendung allometrischer Verhältnisse zwischen Körpermasse und Energieaufwand für energetische Studien und Folgenabschätzungen in verschiedenen Habitaten auf.

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Acknowledgments

The Mariager Fjord data were collected in conjunction with two MSc studies (KKC and CCF) supervised by PC, where Kim Nørgaard Mouritsen acted as co-supervisor. He is thanked for his help during these studies. We also want to thank Stuart Bearhop and two anonymous reviewers for very constructive comments on an earlier draft.

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Correspondence to Kevin Kuhlmann Clausen.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Clausen, K.K., Clausen, P., Fox, A.D. et al. Varying energetic costs of Brent Geese along a continuum from aquatic to agricultural habitats: the importance of habitat-specific energy expenditure. J Ornithol 154, 155–162 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-012-0881-8

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Keywords

  • Energy expenditure
  • Metabolic rates
  • Behaviour
  • Disturbance
  • Branta bernicla