Plant dispersal by Canada geese in Arctic Greenland

  • Andy J. Green Department of Wetland Ecology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, Sevilla, Spain https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1268-4951
  • Ádám Lovas-Kiss Department of Botany, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8811-1623
  • Rachel A. Stroud Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural University of Iceland, Hvanneyri, Iceland
  • Niall Tierney Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural University of Iceland, Hvanneyri, Iceland
  • Anthony D. Fox Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Rønde, Denmark https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8083-7633
Keywords: Branta canadensis, Carex, Empetrum, endozoochory, faeces, seed dispersal

Abstract

Despite the abundance of migratory geese as herbivores in the Arctic, and ongoing changes in their populations and distributions, little is known about their role in seed dispersal. Climate change requires Arctic plants to adjust their distributions, and avian vectors may have an important role to play. We present the first study of endozoochory (internal transport) of Arctic plants by Canada geese. In central west Greenland, we collected 50 faecal samples, from which we extracted 2943 intact seeds from six species and four families, all but one of which (a non-native species) are extremely common and widespread in this part of Greenland. The majority (95%) of seeds were from Empetrum nigrum, but Carex nardina (3%) and Vaccinium uliginosum (2%) were also abundant. One seed of the non-native Persicaria lapathifolia was recorded. These results suggest migratory geese are likely to be vital vectors of Arctic plants. Although the sample size was small, there were indications that nonbreeding geese may disperse more seeds than breeding geese, which stay closer to lakes to reduce the risk of predation, rarely accessing dwarf-scrub heath where non-breeders ingested seeds. Future research should address such possible links between reproductive status and seed dispersal in waterbirds.

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Published
2018-11-15
How to Cite
Green, A., Lovas-Kiss, Ádám, Stroud, R., Tierney, N., & Fox, A. (2018). Plant dispersal by Canada geese in Arctic Greenland. Polar Research, 37. Retrieved from https://polarresearch.net/index.php/polar/article/view/2642
Section
Research Notes