Are declining populations of wild geese in China ‘prisoners’ of their natural habitats?

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Abstract

While wild goose populations wintering in North America and Europe are mostly flourishing by exploiting farmland, those in China (which seem confined to natural wetlands) are generally declining. Telemetry devices were attached to 67 wintering wild geese of five different species at three important wetlands in the Yangtze River Floodplain (YRF), China to determine habitat use. 50 individuals of three declining species were almost entirely diurnally confined to natural wetlands; 17 individuals from two species showing stable trends used wetlands 83% and 90% of the time, otherwise resorting to farmland. These results confirm earlier studies linking declines among Chinese wintering geese to natural habitat loss and degradation affecting food supply. These results also contribute to explaining the poor conservation status of Chinese wintering geese compared to the same and other goose species wintering in adjacent Korea and Japan, western Europe and North America, which feed almost entirely on agricultural land, liberating them from winter population limitation.

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Yu, H., Wang, X., Cao, L., Zhang, L., Jia, Q., Lee, H., … Fox, A. D. (2017). Are declining populations of wild geese in China ‘prisoners’ of their natural habitats? Current Biology, 27(10), R376–R377. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.037

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