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

Wood, Kevin A.; Stillman, Richard A.; Clarke, Ralph T.; Daunt, Francis ORCID:; O’Hare, Matthew T.. 2012 The impact of waterfowl herbivory on plant standing crop: a meta-analysis. Hydrobiologia, 686 (1). 157-167.

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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 (Rs) per bird per hectare was calculated for each group. Comparison of Rs 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.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 0018-8158
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This document is the author’s final manuscript version of the journal article, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer review process. Some differences between this and the publisher’s version remain. You are advised to consult the publisher’s version if you wish to cite from this article. The final publication is available at
Additional Keywords: wildfowl density, ducks, geese, swans, rails, macrophyte biomass
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 16 Jan 2013 16:53 +0 (UTC)

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