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AMoveE 2014: Erik Kleyheeg

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Published on May 23, 2014

This talk was presented by Erik Kleyheeg on 7 May 2014 as part of the Symposium on Animal Movement and the Environment, held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Kleyheeg E, Soons MB, Nolet B, van Dijk J, 2014, "Spatiotemporal variation in landscape use by mallards in Dutch wetlands"

Abstract: Waterbirds are increasingly recognized as major players in wetland ecosystem functioning, for example contributing to dispersal of plants and invertebrates, spread of viruses and wetland eutrophication. This role is, however, dependent on the spatial scale of their landscape use. In the context of seed dispersal we analyzed the spatiotemporal variability of movement patterns in mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in the Netherlands during the non-breeding season. We collected GPS data from 102 male mallards between august 2012 and February 2013 in four landscape types varying in wetland connectivity. We tested the effect of landscape configuration, seasonality, weather parameters and body condition on several movement parameters, including flight frequencies and distances, site fidelity and time budgets. Overall we found a strong diurnal movement pattern, highly dependent on seasonal variation in day length. Most mallards leave their day roost shortly after sunset for nocturnal foraging in nearby, semi-natural, wet habitats, returning to the same day roost before sunrise. There was high fidelity to both roost and foraging sites, especially in landscapes with presumably high resource availability. Local movements were short, ranging from 100+ meters up to several kilometers, resulting in small home range sizes. However, the spatial scale of these movements was highly negatively correlated with the availability of suitable habitat, meaning that mallards fly longer distances in drier landscapes, rather than staying at a combined roost and foraging site. This implies that habitat loss will on one hand result in higher energetic costs for mallards as they have to fly longer distances, but on the other hand enhance the impact of mallards as dispersal agents, forming a biotic connection between remnant plant and invertebrate populations in isolated habitat patches. Natural infection with avian influenza virus did not affect the local scale movements of mallards, although infected birds had a slightly lower body condition. We could also not identify an effect of temperature, rain or wind on movement parameters, although fleeing to larger, open water was observed during a cold spell. In summary we conclude that Dutch mallards show a very predictable, repetitive movement pattern in the non-breeding season. Our next aim is to simulate mallard movements in a spatially explicit model in order to quantify the relative importance of different landscape features and to quantify their role in dispersal of plant seeds. This could allow extrapolation of our results to other landscapes and leads to better understanding of the role of mallards in ecosystem functioning.

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