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Concept: Chen


Costs of parasitism are predicted to be higher with greater parasite intensities and higher inter-parasite competition (diversity). We tested whether greater helminth intensities and diversity were associated with poorer body composition (whole-body fat, protein, mineral and true body mass) in lesser snow geese, Chen caerulescens caerulescens. As part of a larger study on nutritional ecology, 828 wintering or migrating geese were shot between January and May 1983 in 27 different date-locations (samples) during their northward migration through mid-continental North America. A large proportion of overall variation in body composition and parasite communities was among samples, so we analyzed data within each of the 27 samples, controlling for structural body size (the first principal component of 10 body size measurements), sex and the age of geese. There was no compelling evidence that cestodes, trematodes or helminth diversity were associated with variation in body composition but nematodes had several negative associations with fat reserves. However, negative associations between fat reserves and nematodes occurred most often in geese collected between March and May when nematode prevalences and intensities were relatively low. This suggests several possibilities: that the most common nematodes (Heterakis dispar and Trichostrongylus tenuis) were more virulent at this time, that infected individuals had been chronically infected and suffered cumulative nutrient deficits that lasted until late in the spring migration, or that geese became more vulnerable to the effects of parasites at this time of year, possibly because they redirected resources away from immunity toward fat storage in preparation for reproduction.

Concepts: Intestinal parasite, Parasitism, Anser, Chen, Snow Goose


The patterns and mechanisms by which biological diversity is associated with parasite infection risk are important to study because of their potential implications for wildlife population’s conservation and management. Almost all research in this area has focused on host species diversity and has neglected parasite diversity, despite evidence that parasites are important drivers of community structure and ecosystem processes. Here, we assessed whether presence or abundance of each of nine helminth species parasitizing lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens) was associated with indices of parasite diversity (i.e. species richness and Shannon’s Diversity Index). We found repeated instances of focal parasite presence and abundance having significant positive co-variation with diversity measures of other parasites. These results occurred both within individual samples and for combinations of all samples. Whereas host condition and parasite facilitation could be drivers of the patterns we observed, other host- or parasite-level effects, such as age or sex class of host or taxon of parasite, were discounted as explanatory variables. Our findings of recurring and positive associations between focal parasite abundance and diversity underscore the importance of moving beyond pairwise species interactions and contexts, and of including the oft-neglected parasite species diversity in infection-diversity studies.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Ecology, Intestinal parasite, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose


In highly seasonal environments, timing of breeding of organisms is typically set to coincide with the period of highest resource availability. However, breeding phenology may not change at a rate sufficient to keep up with the rapid changes in the environment in the wake of climate change. The lack of synchrony between the phenology of consumers and that of their resources can lead to a phenomenon called trophic mismatch, which may have important consequences on the reproductive success of herbivores. We analysed long-term data (1991-2010) on climate, plant phenology and the reproduction of a long-distance arctic migrant, the greater snow goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica), in order to examine the effects of mismatched reproduction on the growth of young. We found that geese are only partially able to adjust their breeding phenology to compensate for annual changes in the timing of high quality food plants, leading to mismatches of up to 20 days between the two. The peak of nitrogen concentration in plants, an index of their nutritive quality for goslings, occurred earlier in warm springs with an early snow melt. Likewise, mismatch between hatch dates of young and date of peak nitrogen was more important in years with early snow melt. Gosling body mass and structural size at fledging was reduced when trophic mismatch was high, particularly when the difference between date of peak nitrogen concentration and hatching was greater than 9 days. Our results support the hypothesis that trophic mismatch can negatively affect the fitness of arctic herbivores, and that this is likely to be exacerbated by rising global temperatures. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Reproduction, Plant, Ice, Climate, Copyright, Goose, Chen, Snow Goose


In the present study, we investigated the oxidative biotransformation of 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) and 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99) by liver microsomes from wild lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and domesticated Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Formation of hydroxy-metabolites was analyzed using an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry-based method. Incubation of BDE-47 with avian liver microsomes produced sixteen hydroxy-metabolites, eight of which were identified using authentic standards. The major metabolites formed by liver microsomes from individual lesser snow geese were 4-hydroxy-2,2',3,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (4-OH-BDE-42), 3-hydroxy-2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (3-OH-BDE-47), and 4'-hydroxy-2,2',4,5'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (4'-OH-BDE-49). By comparison, 4-OH-BDE-42 and 4'-OH-BDE-49, but not 3-OH-BDE-47, were major metabolites of Japanese quail liver microsomes. Unidentified metabolites included monohydroxy- and dihydroxy-tetrabromodiphenyl ethers. Incubation of BDE-99 with avian liver microsomes produced seventeen hydroxy-metabolites, twelve of which were identified using authentic standards. The major metabolites formed by lesser snow goose liver microsomes were 2,4,5-tribromophenol, 3-OH-BDE-47, 4'-OH-BDE-49, 4-hydroxy-2,2',3,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (4-OH-BDE-90), and 5'-hydroxy-2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (5'-OH-BDE-99). By comparison, the major metabolites produced by liver microsomes from Japanese quail included 6-hydroxy-2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (6-OH-BDE-47) and 2-hydroxy-2',3,4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (2-OH-BDE-123), but not 3-OH-BDE-47. Unidentified metabolites consisted of monohydroxy-pentabromodiphenyl ethers, monohydroxy-tetrabromodiphenyl ethers and dihydroxy-tetrabromodiphenyl ethers. Another difference between the two species was that formation rates of BDE-47 and BDE-99 metabolites were greater with liver microsomes from male than female Japanese quail, but a sex difference was not observed with lesser snow geese.

Concepts: Quail, Coturnix, Japanese Quail, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose


A full understanding of population dynamics depends not only on estimation of mechanistic contributions of recruitment and survival, but also knowledge about the ecological processes that drive each of these vital rates. The process of recruitment in particular may be protracted over several years, and can depend on numerous ecological complexities until sexually mature adulthood is attained. We addressed long term declines (23 breeding seasons, 1992-2014) in the per capita production of young by both Ross’s geese (Chen rossii) and lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) nesting at Karrak Lake in Canada’s central arctic. During this period there was a contemporaneous increase from 0.4 to 1.1 million adults nesting at this colony. We evaluated whether (i) density-dependent nutritional deficiencies of pre-breeding females or (ii) phenological mismatch between peak gosling hatch and peak forage quality, inferred from NDVI on the brood-rearing areas, may have been behind decadal declines in the per capita production of goslings. We found that, in years when pre-breeding females arrived to the nesting grounds with diminished nutrient reserves, the proportional composition of young during brood-rearing was reduced for both species. Furthermore, increased mismatch between peak gosling hatch and peak forage quality contributed additively to further declines in gosling production, in addition to declines caused by delayed nesting with associated subsequent negative effects on clutch size and nest success. The degree of mismatch increased over the course of our study because of advanced vegetation phenology without a corresponding advance in goose nesting phenology. Vegetation phenology was significantly earlier in years with warm surface air temperatures measured in spring (i.e., 25 May - 30 June). We suggest that both increased phenological mismatch and reduced nutritional condition of arriving females were behind declines in population-level recruitment, leading to the recent attenuation in population growth of snow geese. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Per Capita, Goose, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose


Between the early 1900s and the 1990s, the greater snow goose Anser caerulescens atlanticus population grew from 3000 individuals to more than 700 000. Because of concerns about Arctic degradation of natural habitats through overgrazing, a working group recommended the stabilization of the population. Declared overabundant in 1998, special management actions were then implemented in Canada and the United States. Meanwhile, a cost-benefit socioeconomic analysis was performed to set a target population size. Discussions aiming towards attaining a common vision were undertaken with stakeholders at multiple levels. The implemented measures have had varying success; but population size has been generally stable since 1999. To be effective and meet social acceptance, management actions must have a scientific basis, result from a consensus among stakeholders, and include an efficient monitoring programme. In this paper, historical changes in population size and management decisions along with past and current challenges encountered are discussed.

Concepts: Habitat, United States, Management, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose


Increasingly, birds are recognized as important hosts for the ubiquitous parasite Toxoplasma gondii, although little experimental evidence exists to determine which tissues should be tested to maximize the detection probability of T. gondii. Also, Arctic-nesting geese are suspected to be important sources of T. gondii in terrestrial Arctic ecosystems, but the parasite has not previously been reported in the tissues of these geese. Using a domestic goose model, we applied a multi-scale occupancy framework to demonstrate that the probability of detection of T. gondii was highest in the brain (0.689, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.486, 0.839) and the heart (0.809, 95% CI = 0.693, 0.888). Inoculated geese had an estimated T. gondii infection probability of 0.849, (95% CI = 0.643, 0.946), highlighting uncertainty in the system, even under experimental conditions. Guided by these results, we tested the brains and hearts of wild Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii, n = 50) and Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens, n = 50) from Karrak Lake, Nunavut, Canada. We detected 51 suspected positive tissue samples from 33 wild geese using real-time PCR with melt-curve analysis (PCR-MCA). The wild goose prevalence estimates generated by our multi-scale occupancy analysis were higher than the naïve estimates of prevalence, indicating that multiple PCR repetitions on the same organs and testing more than one organ could improve T. gondii detection. Genetic characterization revealed Type III T. gondii alleles in six wild geese and Sarcocystis spp. in 25 samples. Our study demonstrates that Arctic nesting geese are capable of harboring T. gondii in their tissues and could transport the parasite from their southern overwintering grounds into the Arctic region. We demonstrate how a multi-scale occupancy framework can be used in a domestic animal model to guide resource-limited sample collection and tissue analysis in wildlife. Secondly, we confirm the value of traditional occupancy in optimizing T. gondii detection probability in tissue samples.

Concepts: Apicomplexa, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii, Anser, Geese, Sarcocystidae, Chen, Snow Goose


Swans, geese and some ducks (Anatidae) are obligate herbivores, many are important quarry species and all contribute to a variety of ecosystem services. Population growth and shifting ranges have led to increasing proximity to man and thus increasing conflicts. We review and synthesize the role of these birds as herbivores on agricultural land (cropland, rotational grassland and pasture) and other terrestrial habitats where conflict with human interests may occur. A bibliographic analysis of peer-reviewed papers (N = 359) shows that publication activity peaked in 1991-2000 in North America and 2000-2010 in Europe, and has decreased since. Taxonomic and geographical biases are obvious in research to date: Snow Goose Chen caerulescens was the most studied species (N = 98), and Canada Branta canadensis, Barnacle B. leucopsis and Brent geese B. bernicla all featured in more than 40 studies; most studies originated in northwest Europe or North America, very few have been carried out in Asia and European Russia. On the basis of nutrient/energy budgets of herbivorous waterfowl, it is evident that dense single-species crops (such as rotational grassland, early-growth cereals and root crops) and spilled grain in agricultural landscapes offer elevated energetic and nutritional intake rates of food of higher quality compared to natural or semi-natural vegetation. Hence, although affected by seasonal nutritional demands, proximity to roost, field size, disturbance levels, access to water, food depletion and snow cover, agricultural landscapes tend to offer superior foraging opportunities over natural habitats, creating potential conflict with agriculture. Herbivorous waterfowl select for high protein, soluble carbohydrate and water content, high digestibility as well as low fibre and phenolic compounds, but intake rates from grazing varied with goose body and bill morphology, creating species-specific loci for conflict. Crop damage by trampling and puddling has not been demonstrated convincingly, nor do waterfowl faeces deter grazing stock, but where consumption of crops evidently reduces yields this causes conflict with farmers. Studies show that it is difficult and expensive to assess the precise impacts of waterfowl feeding on yield loss because of other sources of variation. However, less damage has been documented from winter grazing compared to spring grazing and yield loss after spring grazing on grassland appears more pronounced than losses on cereal fields. Although yield losses at national scales are trivial, individual farmers in areas of greatest waterfowl feeding concentrations suffer disproportionately, necessitating improved solutions to conflict. Accordingly, we review the efficacy of population management, disturbance, provision of alternative feeding areas, compensation and large-scale stakeholder involvement and co-management as options for resolving conflict based on the existing literature and present a framework of management advice for the future. We conclude with an assessment of the research needs for the immediate future to inform policy development, improve management of waterfowl populations and reduce conflict with agriculture.

Concepts: Agriculture, Herbivore, Grazing, Goose, Branta, Anser, Anatidae, Chen


In this study, we cloned and sequenced the complete mitochondrial DNAs of Chinese goose, Anser cygnoides populations from three different areas of Hunan province in China. The Anser cygnoides breed Wugangtong white goose (WGTW) sample and Wugangtong grey goose sample (WGTG) were taken from the Wugang county of Shaoyang city, the Anser cygnoides breed Xupu goose (XP) sample was taken from the Xupu county of Huaihua city, and the Anser cygnoides breed Yanling white goose (YLW) sample was taken from the Yanling county of Zhuzhou city. The organization of the four Anser cygnoides breeds mitochondrial genomes was similar. Phylogenetic analyses using N-J computational algorithms showed that the analyzed species are divided into four major clades: Anatinae, Anserinae, Dendrocygninae and Anseranatidae. It was noted that Wugangtong white goose, Yanling white goose and Xupu goose have highly similar phylogenetic relationship.

Concepts: Goose, Branta, Anser, Hunan, Anatidae, Chen, Anserinae, Huaihua


1.Allometric constraints associated with digesting leaves require relatively small avian herbivores to consume high-quality forage. How such constraints are overcome during ontogeny when energy and nutrient requirements are relatively high has not been adequately explored. 2.We compared growth trajectories of Canada and lesser snow goose goslings raised on grass-based diets that differed in protein (10, 14, or 18%) and fiber (30 or 45%) with those of free-living goslings on Akimiski Island, Canada. This common-garden experiment allowed us to test the hypotheses that (1) smaller-bodied geese are more negatively affected by reduced forage quality than larger-bodied geese, and (2) goslings from subarctic brood-rearing areas have a limited capacity to slow growth in response to reduced forage quality. 3.Canada goose goslings fed low protein (10%) diets were on average 44% lighter in body mass, had slower growth rates, and were delayed >20 days in reaching 90% of asymptotic size compared to Canada goose goslings fed 18% protein. In contrast, snow goose goslings were unable to survive on the low protein diets, and those fed high or medium protein diets grew at a similar rate and achieved similar asymptotic size. Canada and snow goose goslings fed low protein diets had reduced growth rates of the tarsus and delayed emergence of the 9(th) primary. 4.Free-ranging Canada goslings on Akimiski Island were similar in mass and structural size to captive-reared goslings fed low protein diets. In contrast, snow goslings were similar in mass and structural size to the captive-reared goslings fed the high and medium protein diets. This suggests that degraded habitats with mostly low protein forage may be able to support Canada goslings better than snow goslings which require higher quality forage to survive. 5.Size-related differences in gosling growth and survival in response to diminished diet quality may influence population size when available food reaches a lower threshold in protein content. However, goslings can avoid such density-dependent population regulation if they are able to move their broods and find adequate quality and quantity of forage. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: All rights reserved, Copyright, Goose, Branta, Canada Goose, Anser, Geese, Chen