Cross-seasonal effects and the dynamics of waterfowl populations

James S. Sedinger, Ray T. Alisauskas


Cross-seasonal effects (CSEs) on waterfowl populations link together events and
habitats that individuals experience as carry-over effects (COEs) throughout the
annual cycle. The importance of CSEs has been recognised since at least the 1950s. Studies of nutrient dynamics beginning in the 1970s, followed by regression analyses that linked production of young to winter habitat conditions, confirmed the importance of CSEs. CSEs have been most apparent in large-bodied waterfowl, but evidence for CSEs in much smaller passerines suggests the potential for CSEs in all waterfowl. Numerous studies have established effects of winter weather on body condition and reproduction in both ducks and geese. Additionally, the ubiquitous use (during laying and incubation) of nutrients stored previously during spring migration suggests that such nutrients commonly influence reproductive success in waterfowl. Carry-over effects from the breeding season to autumn and winter are less well understood, although nutrition during the growth period in geese has been widely demonstrated to influence subsequent survival and reproduction. Only a few studies have examined effects of breeding on reproduction in later years. Because pathogens and parasites can be carried between seasonal habitats, disease represents an important potential mechanism underlying CSEs; so far, however, this role for diseases and parasitism remains poorly understood. CSEs were originally of interest because of their implications for management of seasonal habitats and CSEs represent a fundamental rationale for the habitat joint ventures in North America. Substantial research examining the role of COEs in individual fitness and of CSEs on population dynamics has now been conducted. New techniques (e.g. stable isotopes, geolocators) developed over the last decade, combined with more traditional marking programmes have created opportunities to understand CSEs more fully and to inform the management of seasonal habitats for waterfowl.

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