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Recovery of tall cotton-grass following real and simulated feeding by snow geese

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Lesser snow geese Anser caerulescens caerulescens from the western Canadian Arctic feed on underground parts of tall cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium during autumn staging on the coastal plain of the Beaufort Sea in Canada and Alaska. We studied revegetation of sites where cotton-grass had been removed either by human-imprinted snow geese or by hand to simulate snow goose feeding. Aerial cover of cotton-grass at sites (n=4) exploited by human-imprinted snow geese averaged 60 and 39% lower than in undisturbed control plots during the first and second year after feeding, respectively. Underground biomass of cotton-grass stembases and rhizomes in hand-treated plots was 80 and 62% less than in control plots 2 and 4 yr after removal, respectively (n=10 yr−1). Aerial cover and biomass of common non-forage species such as Carex aquatilis did not increase on treated areas. Removal of cotton-grass by geese likely reduces forage availability at exploited sites for at least 2–4 yr after feeding but probably does not affect long-term community composition. Temporal heterogeneity in forage abundance likely contributes to the large spatial requirement of snow geese during staging.
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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