Estimating diet composition for mountain hares in newly established native woodland: development and application of plant-wax faecal markers

S. J. Rao, Glenn Iason, I. A. R. Hulbert, R. W. Mayes, Paul Adrian Racey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Knowledge of the feeding ecology of mammalian herbivores is fundamental in predicting their responses to habitat change. Where native woodlands are newly established in open moorland, the extent to which trees form part of the diet of mountain hares (Lepus timidus) is unknown. This information is necessary for predicting the potential effects of mountain hare browsing on woodland establishment. The n-alkanes and a long-chain fatty alcohols found in the cuticular wax of diet plants and faeces (N=240) were used as markers to estimate the composition of the diet of mountain hares in an area of moorland with newly established Pinus sylvestris and Betula pubescens woodland. During winter, the diet of mountain hares was dominated by Calluna vulgaris, but there was a seasonal shift to a diet dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes in summer. Pinus sylvestris and B. pubescens were minor dietary components in all seasons. A higher proportion of grasses, sedges, and rushes was found in the diet of lactating females. Results suggest that when an alternative browse species such as C. vulgaris is widely available, mountain hares may not have a large impact on the establishment of native woodland. The dietary results from this study are in broad agreement with those from previous studies using other techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1056
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal Of Zoology/Revue Canadien De Zoologie
Volume81
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords

  • LEPUS-TIMIDUS
  • SNOWSHOE HARES
  • MAMMALIAN HERBIVORES
  • FUNCTIONAL-RESPONSE
  • EPICUTICULAR WAXES
  • CUTICULAR WAX
  • HABITAT USE
  • WINTER
  • ALKANES
  • SELECTION

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