Energy Budgets of Eared Grebes on the Great Salt Lake and Implications for Harvest of Brine Shrimp

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The Journal of Wildlife Management







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About 1.5-million eared grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), representing half of the North American population, stage on Utah's Great Salt Lake, USA (GSL) during autumn migration to forage on brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana). Indirectly competing with birds for brine shrimp are commercial harvesters who annually collect >1 million kg (dry wt) of shrimp cysts (i.e., hardened eggs), an amount that during some years equals up to half of all brine shrimp cysts produced annually on the GSL. No information was available regarding what impact this commercial harvest was having on eared grebes. We determined daily energy requirements of eared grebes so that regulations governing brine shrimp cyst harvest would better reflect foraging needs of grebes. We measured basal metabolic rate (BMR) of eared grebes from June 2000 to October 2000. Mean BMR of 106 adult and subadult eared grebes was 0.023 kJ/g/hour (SD = 0.004), and mean BMR of 37 juveniles was 0.024 kJ/g/hour (SD = 0.003). Resting and preening metabolic rates were 1.2 times higher than BMR, whereas diving-bout metabolic rate was 1.7 times higher than BMR. Daily energy needs of an average-sized grebe (550 g) during November were 391 kJ. Meeting this energy need requires daily consumption of 24,400 adult brine shrimp. In addition, grebes must consume 2,100–5,200 adult shrimp daily to obtain enough energy reserves to continue their migration to California, USA, and Mexico. Hence, grebes need to consume 26,500–29,600 adult brine shrimp daily while staging on GSL. To achieve this high harvest rate, grebes need adult brine shrimp densities at >380 shrimp/m3during autumn. Commercial harvest of brine shrimp cysts from GSL should be curtailed when cyst densities fall below 20,000 cysts/m3to ensure enough adult brine shrimp for grebes during the subsequent year.

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