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H.2-2: Joint use of location and acceleration data to quantify habitat use transitions in Arctic-nesting geese

Presented by Jay A. VonBank - Email: jay.vonbank@students.tamuk.edu

Throughout the 20th century, greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons frontalis) primarily wintered in Texas and Louisiana, but over the last two decades have shifted their main wintering distribution northeastward, primarily into the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Changes in land use, climate, and resource availability are likely drivers of the distribution shift, yet little contemporary information exists regarding behavior and habitat requirements of wintering white-fronts. We used GPS and tri-axial accelerometer data from 56 adult white-fronted geese captured during winters 20152017 in Texas and Louisiana. We used GPS information to determine white-fronted goose habitat use patterns in space and time, and used accelerometer-derived behaviors for more detailed understanding of how individuals used habitats. We used a novel Bayesian Markov modelling approach to determine how time spent in specific behaviors affected transition rates among habitat types, allowing inference as to the effects of behavior and environmental covariates as drivers of habitat use by combining 53,502 GPS locations with 300,348 temporally-matched behaviors. Transition probabilities to rice and to grass/pasture were only significant across all habitat types when temperatures were warmer, and transition probabilities from grass/pasture to corn and to peanuts were significant when temperatures were colder. Transitions to open water were more probable during night hours, but transitions to woody and herbaceous wetlands, and unconsolidated shore habitats from all other habitat types were not influenced by diel period, indicating white-fronted geese use different wetland habitats for different functions. Foraging increased in early winter, decreased mid-winter, and increased again during late winter before commencement of spring migration. Our model of habitat transitions showed different rates of habitat transitions among regions, illustrating a need for region-specific habitat management considerations. Understanding the drivers of habitat use and patterns of behavior will aid in determining future management practices throughout the range of greater white-fronted geese.
Session: Movement & Tracking (Thursday, August 29, 13:20 to 15:00)