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With warmer springs, herbivores migrating to Arctic breeding grounds may experience phenological mismatches between their energy demands and the availability of high quality forage. Yet, how the timing of the start of the season and herbivore arrival influences forage quality is often unknown. In coastal western Alaska, approximately one million migratory geese arrive each spring to breed, where foliar %N and C:N ratios are linked to gosling survival and population growth. We conducted a three-year experiment where we manipulated the start of the growing season using warming chambers and grazing times using captive Pacific black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) to examine how the timing of these events influences the quality of an important forage species. Our results suggest that grazing timing plays a much greater role than an advanced growing season in determining forage quality. All top models included grazing timing, and suggested that compared to typical grazing timing, early grazing significantly reduced foliar %C by 6% and C:N ratios by 16%, while late goose grazing significantly reduced foliar %N by 15% and increased foliar C:N ratios by 21%. While second-ranking top models included the effect of season, the advanced growing season effect was not significant and only reduced %N by 4%, increased %C by
Beard KH, Choi RT, Leffler AJ, Carlson LG, Kelsey KC, et al. (2019) Migratory goose arrival time plays a larger role in influencing forage quality than advancing springs in an Arctic coastal wetland. PLOS ONE 14(3): e0213037. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213037