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Scale and intensity of intertidal habitat use by knots Calidris canutus in the western Wadden Sea in relation to food, friends and foes
Piersma, T.; Hoekstra, R.; Dekinga, A.; Koolhaas, A.; Wolf, P.; Battley, P.; Wiersma, P. (1993). Scale and intensity of intertidal habitat use by knots Calidris canutus in the western Wadden Sea in relation to food, friends and foes. Neth. J. Sea Res. 31(4): 331-357
In: Netherlands Journal of Sea Research. Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ): Groningen; Den Burg. ISSN 0077-7579, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Piersma, T.
  • Hoekstra, R.
  • Dekinga, A.
  • Koolhaas, A.
  • Wolf, P., more
  • Battley, P.
  • Wiersma, P.

Abstract
    In August-October 1988-1992 we studied the distribution and abundance of knots Calidris canutus around Griend in the western Wadden Sea, and the extent to which these can be explained by benthic prey availability and presence of avian predators. Numbers in the nonbreeding season showed monthly averages of 10000 to 25000 birds. Over 100000 knots were recorded on three occasions. Knots feed in large flocks, individual birds usually experiencing 4000 to 15000 flock-mates. The Siberian-breeding/west-African wintering canutus subspecies passed through in late July and early August. Otherwise the Greenlandic/Canadian breeding islandica subspecies was present. Over the period 1964-1992 there were no clear trends in the number of knots, but canutus-knots were particularly abundant in July-August 1991, whereas in 1992 both subspecies were absent. Macoma balthica was the preferred prey of both subspecies. Hydrobia ulvae, Mytilus edulis and Cerastoderma edule were eaten when Macoma was absent close to the surface of the sediment. As Macoma buried deeper from July onwards, canutus faced better average feeding conditions than islandica later in the year. The spatial distribution of knots feeding on the intertidal flats around Griend was best explained by the harvestable biomass of the prevalent prey species in a particular year and season, i.e. Macoma (main prey when their harvestable biomass densities were greater than ca 0.8 g AFDM per m²) and Cerastoderma, and by the avoidance of situations where they run the risk of attack by bird-eating birds. Flocks of knots covered most of the intertidal flats in the western Dutch Wadden Sea in a couple of tidal cycles. This is about 800 km², much larger than the equivalent area used by knots on their wintering grounds in Mauritania (10-15 km²), a difference that is correlated with prey spectrum, prey availability and predictability.

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