The management of Arctic migrant geese is complex, because they frequently use landscapes under intensive human use, and are conflict species in multiple respects. Some populations are of high conservation concern, but they also cause agricultural damage, are quarry for hunters, and may be particularly sensitive to infrastructure developments. In Bulgarian Dobrudzha, large wintering populations of greater white-fronted geese Anser albifrons and red-breasted geese Branta ruficollis feed in agricultural land, and cause management dilemmas. We developed linear models to investigate fine- and meso-scale foraging habitat selection of geese foraging on winter wheat in the area, and used these models to make suggestions for zoning landscape use in order to reduce conflict and conserve geese. Habitat selection was scale-dependent. Geese selected fields that were near to major roosts and had low proximity to roads and tree-lines, which may be a proxy for hunting disturbance. We found some evidence for selection of wheat fields with high nutritional quality. Within fields, geese strongly avoided features which cause landscape ‘clutter’: power-lines, tree-lines and wind-turbines, but primarily over distances of less than a few hundred metres. Optimal management might involve encouraging goose populations to feed in areas close to roosts, by means of agri-environmental measures and creation of hunting-free refuges. This would allow efficient use of agri-environment funds, might reduce conflict with farmers, and would mean that infrastructure development—notably wind farms—could be sited at greater distance from roosts with relatively minor impact on foraging habitat availability.
Scale-dependent habitat selection by wintering geese: implications for landscape management
Title: Scale-dependent habitat selection by wintering geese: implications for landscape management
January 01, 2018
Journal: Biodiversity and Conservation
Harrison, A.; Petkov, N.; Mitev, D.; Popgeorgiev, G.; Gove, B.; Hilton, G. (2108). Scale-dependent habitat selection by wintering geese: implications for landscape management. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27(1), 167-188.