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Tidal freshwater wetland herbivory in Anacostia Park

January 1, 2010

Herbivory has played a major role in dictating vegetation abundance and species composition at Kingman Marsh in Anacostia Park, Washington, D.C., since restoration of this tidal freshwater wetland was initiated in 2000. In June 2009 an herbivory study was established to document the impacts of resident Canada goose (Branta canadensis maxima) herbivory to vegetation at Kingman Marsh. Sixteen modules consisting of paired exclosed plots and unfenced control plots were constructed. Eight of the modules were installed in vegetated portions of the restoration site that had been protected over time by fencing, while the remaining eight modules were placed in portions of the site that had not been protected over time and were basically unvegetated at the start of the experiment. Since the experiment was designed to determine the impacts of herbivory by resident Canada geese as opposed to other herbivores, exclosure fencing was elevated 0.2 m to permit access by herbivores such as fish and turtles while excluding mature Canada geese. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyze the differences between paired exclosure and control plots for a number of variables including total vegetative cover. Differences in total vegetative cover were not significant for the baseline data collected in June. By contrast, two months after the old protective fencing was removed from the initially-vegetated areas to allow Canada geese access to the control plots, total vegetative cover had declined dramatically in the initially-vegetated control plots, and differences between paired exclosed and control plots were significant (P = 0.0026). No herbivory by Canada geese or other herbivores such as fish or turtles was observed in the exclosures. These results show that Canada goose herbivory has inflicted significant damage to the native wetland vegetation in the portions of Kingman Marsh that had been refenced and replanted. Significant differences in total vegetative cover were limited to the eight modules installed in areas already vegetated by previous restoration efforts and protected until the start of the study, suggesting that areas of Kingman that are essentially devoid of vegetation would take longer than a growing season to show signs of improvement once goose herbivory impacts have been reduced.

Publication Year 2010
Title Tidal freshwater wetland herbivory in Anacostia Park
Authors Cairn Krafft, Jeff S. Hatfield, Richard S. Hammerschlag
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Natural Resource Technical Report
Series Number NPS/NCR/NCRO/NRTR2010/002
Index ID 70009680
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center