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How does oak mast seeding affect the feeding behavior of sympatric red and roe deer?

Abstract : Oak reproduction is characterized by mast seeding with high inter-annual fluctuations in fruit production. Such resource pulses can greatly affect ecosystem functioning and may cause seed consumers to alter their mobility, demography, or diet. Consequences of mast seeding for seed consumers remain poorly understood as their long timescale makes them difficult to study. We investigated impacts of oak mast seeding on the feeding behavior of two sympatric European deer species: red deer (Cervus elaphus) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). We analyzed their rumen content over a 31-year period in tandem with 10 years of data on oak fructification (i.e. 8 years of field monitoring and two modelled years). Acorn production is strongly correlated with consumption by both deer species. In years of high fructification, acorns represent more than 50% and 35% of red and roe deer diet, respectively, confirming assumptions that deer favor acorns when these are available. Red deer eat more acorns than roe deer both between and within years. High acorn production in mast years appears to saturate the capacity of deer to consume acorns. As the proportion of acorns increase in their diet, red deer eat more grasses and less conifer browse. No dietary shift was found for roe deer. By inducing dietary shifts in consumers, oak mast seeding can have cascading effects on ecosystem processes, notably on the damages on conifers caused by red deer and the consequences for forest dynamics.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03038406
Contributor : Lindsay Godard <>
Submitted on : Thursday, December 3, 2020 - 2:40:10 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - 2:57:32 PM

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Julien Barrere, Vincent Boulanger, Catherine Collet, Emily Walker, Vivien Siat, et al.. How does oak mast seeding affect the feeding behavior of sympatric red and roe deer?. Basic and Applied Ecology, Elsevier, 2020, 47, pp.83-94. ⟨10.1016/j.baae.2020.04.006⟩. ⟨hal-03038406⟩

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