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Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 369–379 | Cite as

Behaviour of horses and cattle at two stocking densities in a coastal salt marsh

  • S . NolteEmail author
  • C. van der Weyde
  • P. Esselink
  • C. Smit
  • S. E. van Wieren
  • J. P. Bakker
Article

Abstract

Livestock grazing has been practiced in salt marshes in the Wadden Sea area since 600 B.C. Currently livestock grazing is also applied for conservation management. However, effects of such grazing management on salt marshes are likely to vary depending on the species of livestock and stocking density due to differences in the behaviour of the animals. Yet, little is known about the behaviour of different livestock species and stocking densities grazing in salt marshes. We studied the grazing behaviour of horses and cattle by focal observation in an experiment with four different grazing treatments on a coastal salt marsh. In all treatments we recorded diet choice, movement and grazing activity, and spatial distribution. Livestock species shared an overlap in diet choice. Yet, horses more often foraged on the short grass Puccinellia maritima, while the cattle diet contained a higher amount of Aster tripolium. Horses travelled longer distances per day and spent more time grazing than cattle. Spatial distribution of cattle was significantly clustered, while horses showed a random distribution utilizing the whole area. Animal behaviour differs between livestock species and stocking densities with respect to diet choice, activity and spatial distribution.

Keywords

Diet choice Focal observation Livestock species Conservation management Semi-natural grassland 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank ‘It Fryske Gea’ for logistic support and for kindly permitting us to setup the experiment. Gerrit van de Leest and Johannes Westerhof maintained the fences and inspected the well-being of the animals in the experiment. We acknowledge Anne-Marie van den Driessche for performing the chemical analysis and Nina Bhola for statistical advice. Adriënne Verburg and José de Jaeger are thanked for performing a preliminary study which enabled us to plan this research project. Dick Visser kindly prepared the figures. Esther Chang is acknowledged for improving the English of this manuscript. Sophie Prache and two reviewers gave valuable comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This research was funded by the Waddenfonds (project WF200451).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary 1 (PDF 540 kb)
11852_2017_515_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (79 kb)
Supplementary 2 (PDF 78 kb)
11852_2017_515_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (21 kb)
Supplementary 3 (PDF 20 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • S . Nolte
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • C. van der Weyde
    • 3
  • P. Esselink
    • 1
    • 4
  • C. Smit
    • 1
  • S. E. van Wieren
    • 5
  • J. P. Bakker
    • 1
  1. 1.Conservation Ecology, Groningen Institute of Evolutionary Life Sciences GELIFESUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Applied Plant Ecology, Biocenter Klein FlottbekUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied SciencesLeeuwardenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Puccimar, Ecological Research and ConsultancyVriesThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Resource Ecology GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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