Seasonal herbivory and mortality compensation in a swan-pondweed system

N. Jonzén, B.A. Nolet, L. Santamaría, M. Svensson

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    Many birds feed on submerged macrophytes during a temporally discrete period every year, for instance during migratory stopover or at the wintering grounds. Hence, seasonal herbivory is a common feature of the life cycle in many aquatic macrophytes. We are interested in the effect of Bewick's swans (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) feeding on the tubers of fennel pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) in the Netherlands every autumn. For that purpose, we developed a sequential macrophyte population model, including seasons of tuber production, herbivory and winter mortality as distinct and unambiguously defined events. The model is characterised and parameterised with both field and laboratory data. Tuber consumption inevitably decreases the density of ramets sprouting next spring, but it may actually increase the density of tubers produced in the following autumn. Hence, we can only understand the effect of grazing on the fennel pondweed population by recognising the seasonal structure of density-dependence. The mean density of fennel pondweed and the yield taken by swans are dependent on the foraging threshold below which no grazing takes place. Furthermore, the consumption has a stabilising effect for a wide range of parameter values. [KEYWORDS: aquatic macrophytes, Cygnus columbianus, functional response, Potamogeton pectinatus, sequential density-dependence]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-219
    JournalEcological Modelling
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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