Action: Re-seed grasslands
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- One of two studies, both from the UK and investigating grazing by geese Branta spp., found that geese grazed at higher densities on grasslands that were re-seeded, compared to control or fertilised areas.
- One study found that areas sown with clover were grazed at higher densities than those sown with grass seed.
Re-seeding grasslands may improve productivity and the growth of young grass, which in turn may increase the number of birds it can support. This intervention is sometimes used to attract geese to specific areas to reduce conflict with farmers, when geese graze their crops. See ‘Provide sacrificial grasslands to reduce the impact of wild geese on crops’ for details.
Re-seeding can be with grass species, or with legumes such as clover Trifolium spp. which may improve the nitrogen content of the forage.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, controlled trial in 1984-7 on a reserve on the island of Islay, west Scotland (Percival 1993), found that more barnacle geese Branta leucopsis used wet pasture fields if they were reseeded, compared to if they were fertilised or untreated (reseeding increased dropping density by 60-135%; fertilisation by 17-42%, but not in all fields or years). The effect of reseeding declined over time, and as the overall area of rotational grassland on the reserve increased. Reseeding consisted of ploughing fields and sowing with a perennial rye-grass Lolium perenne dominated seed mix in May.
A replicated study on an arable field on Thorny Island, in Suffolk, England, in the winters of 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 (McKay et al. 2001) found that dark-bellied brent geese Branta bernicla bernicla preferentially foraged on plots sown with white clover Trifolium repens, compared to three grass species (10-13 droppings/m2 for 12 clover plots vs. 0-5 droppings/m2 for 36 grass plots). There were no differences between grass species (perennial ryegrass, red fescue Festuca rubra or timothy Phleum pratense). Plots were established in spring 1991 and preferences were found in both years, although more geese used grass plots in 1993-1994.