Food algae for Lesser Flamingos: a stocktaking

Abstract

Lesser Flamingo, the flagship species of saline wetlands of Africa and India, is a specialised feeder subsisting on microscopic cyanobacteria and algae. To establish the relationship between flamingo occurrence and food algal abundance and quality, an extensive microphyte survey in more than 150 sampling trips to seven countries over a 15-years period (2001–2015) was carried out. The 44 habitat sites included the core soda lakes in eastern Africa (Bogoria, Nakuru, Elmentaita, Oloidien), where the highest numbers of flamingos were observed, and five breeding sites in eastern and southern Africa as well as in north-western India. A reference describing the diversity of microphytes was established including members of three orders of cyanobacteria and nine orders of eukaryotic algae that potentially could act as food source for Lesser Flamingos. Preferred food organisms consisted of filamentous cyanobacteria, mainly Arthrospira, as well as benthic diatoms. Further investigation on the suitability of other microphytes as alternative flamingo diet revealed the food potential of chlorophytes and euglenophytes. This paper discusses a phycological perspective in the feeding ecology of Lesser Flamingos. The survey findings can assist scientists and conservationists in evaluating the potential of wetlands to support flocks of this endangered bird.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Government of Kenya for permission to carry out this research (No. MOEST 13/001/31 C 90). We thank the Government of Namibia for research permission (No.1310/2008), and the Government of South Africa for research permission (No. ODB 2569/2011, ODB 2570/2011). We are grateful to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for its financial support (Grant no. 01LC0001). Our sincere appreciation is due to the county councils of Koibatek and Baringo districts, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary for granting us access to lakes. The study was supported by the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Germany; Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya; the Etosha Ecological Institute, Okaukuejo, Namibia and the Central University of Rajasthan, Bandarsindri (Ajmer), India. Our gratitude is also due to Mark & Tania Anderson, Andreas Ballot, Christina Bock, Herbert Booth, Rod Braby, Peter and Christine Casper, Geoffrey A. Codd, Stephen M. Gichobi, Kohannes Kapner, William Kimosop, Oliver Nasirwa, Stephan Pflugmacher, Jackson Raini, Jan Roos, Justina Shihepo, Ekkehard Vareschi (†), Keith Wearne (†) and Claudia Wiegand for their assistance in the field and/or useful discussions. We thank Monika Papke, Reingard Rossberg and Edith Tesch for assistance in the laboratory and office.

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Krienitz, L., Krienitz, D., Dadheech, P.K. et al. Food algae for Lesser Flamingos: a stocktaking. Hydrobiologia 775, 21–50 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2706-x

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Keywords

  • Arthrospira fusiformis
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Benthic diatoms
  • Extreme habitats
  • Food web interaction
  • Saline wetlands
  • Tropical soda lakes