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The relationship between nutritional quality of plants and seed intake by large herbivores

Jonker, S.IJ. (2003) The relationship between nutritional quality of plants and seed intake by large herbivores. Master's Thesis / Essay, Biology.

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Abstract

Many former agricultural fields become available for nature development. These fields have to be colonised by seeds of target species as often the topsoil together with the seed bank will be removed. Colonisation by target species can be stimulated by fencing the nature development site together with so called source sites. Then herbivores may disperse the seeds by epizoochory and endozoochory. This study focuses on endozoochory. We studied the relationship between seed survival in cattle and of seed uptake by fallow deer and nutritional quality of the foliage. Three hypotheses have been tested: (1) seeds of plants with relatively high nitrogen content are overrepresented in the dung of Scottish Highland cattle compared with the seed supply in the same area; (2) intake of seeds by fallow deer is positively correlated with nitrogen content of foliage within plant species grown on different nitrogen supply; (3) intake of seeds by fallow deer is positively correlated with nitrogen content of the foliage between three plant species (Agrostis capillaris, Juncus effusus and Erica tetralix). To test the first hypothesis the correlation between nitrogen content of various plants at Dellebuursterheide and seed composition in the dung of cattle was tested. In this survey it cannot be concluded that there was a significant correlation. But there was a positive correlation between Ellenberg nitrogen indicator value and nitrogen content. To test the second hypothesis Plantago major and Stellaria media were grown upon soils with different nitrogen supply and used in a food choice experiment. In neither of the species nitrogen content in foliage and seed intake did significantly correlate. In Plantago major there was a significant increase in seed uptake with increasing length of the fruiting stems. In Stellaria media there was a significant correlation between nitrogen content of the fruiting stems and the percentage foraging time. To test the third hypothesis the three species were used in a food choice experiment. There was no significant correlation between nitrogen content of the plants and uptake of seeds. Nitrogen content of plants on itself seems to be no good indicator for the potential seed dispersal. But together with other researches it is shown that heathland species are dispersed less than species from areas that are richer in nutrients. Therefore we recommend to exclude grazing from heathlands, especially in summer.

Item Type: Thesis (Master's Thesis / Essay)
Degree programme: Biology
Thesis type: Master's Thesis / Essay
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 07:31
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 07:31
URI: http://fse.studenttheses.ub.rug.nl/id/eprint/9125

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