Tischler, K.B.; Severud, W.J.; Peterson, R.O.; Bump, J.K. Aquatic Macrophytes are Seasonally Important Dietary Resources for Moose. Diversity2019, 11, 209.
Tischler, K.B.; Severud, W.J.; Peterson, R.O.; Bump, J.K. Aquatic Macrophytes are Seasonally Important Dietary Resources for Moose. Diversity 2019, 11, 209.
Moose (Alces alces) are generalist herbivores but are important aquatic-terrestrial ecotone specialists. Aquatic macrophytes are a high-quality food source for moose during the summer, however their relative importance to moose diet is difficult to study. We used stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen from moose hooves and forage (terrestrial plants, aquatic macrophytes, and arboreal lichen) to estimate the diet of moose at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA, and to evaluate the isotopic variability along chronologies of serially sampled hooves. We hypothesized that aquatic macrophyte consumption and winter body condition (as measured by bone marrow fat content) would be greater at the eastern end of the island where aquatic habitats were most abundant. We were unable to evaluate spatial differences in aquatic macrophyte consumption, but overall, our mixing model results suggest that between 13% and 27% of summer moose diet was from aquatic sources. Among moose that died during winter, body condition was impaired and hoof δ15N (measured at the hairline) was higher at the western end of the island, where aquatic habitats are sparse. Although isotope chronologies preserved in hooves could significantly enhance our understanding of ungulate foraging ecology, interpretation of such chronologies is presently limited by our lack of knowledge pertaining to hoof growth rate and seasonal dynamics in relation to age and health. Significant isotope distinction among terrestrial plants, aquatic macrophytes, and arboreal lichens indicate that continued methodological advances in stable isotope ecology will lead to more precise estimates of the contribution of aquatic feeding to moose population dynamics.
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