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The impact of waterfowl herbivory on plant standing crop: a meta-analysis

Abstract

Waterfowl can cause substantial reductions in plant standing crop, which may have ecological and economic consequences. However, what determines the magnitude of these reductions is not well understood. Using data from published studies, we derived the relationship between waterfowl density and reduction in plant standing crop. When waterfowl density was estimated as individuals ha−1 no significant relationship with reduction in plant standing crop was detected. However, when waterfowl density was estimated as kg ha−1 a significant, positive, linear relationship with reduction in plant standing crop was found. Whilst many previous studies have considered waterfowl species as homologous, despite large differences in body mass, our results suggest that species body mass is a key determinant of waterfowl impact on plant standing crop. To examine relative impacts of waterfowl groups based on species body mass, a measure of plant biomass reduction (R s) per bird per hectare was calculated for each group. Comparison of R s values indicated some differences in impact between different waterfowl groups, with swans having a greater per capita impact than smaller-bodied waterfowl groups. We present evidence that this difference is linked to disparities in individual body size and associated differences in intake rates, diet composition and energy requirements. Future research priorities are proposed, particularly the need for experiments that quantify the importance of factors that determine the magnitude of waterfowl impacts on plant standing crop.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Anthony Fox, Sidinei Thomaz and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Kevin Wood was supported by a Centre for Ecology & Hydrology Algorithm (Natural Environment Research Council) studentship.

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Correspondence to Kevin A. Wood.

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Handling editor: Sidinei Magela Thomaz

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Wood, K.A., Stillman, R.A., Clarke, R.T. et al. The impact of waterfowl herbivory on plant standing crop: a meta-analysis. Hydrobiologia 686, 157–167 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1007-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1007-2

Keywords

  • Wildfowl density
  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Swans
  • Rails
  • Macrophyte biomass