Waterfowl foraging in winter-flooded ricefields: Any agronomic benefits for farmers?
Winter-flooding of ricefields provides foraging habitat to waterfowl, which in return may bring agronomic benefits to farmers. Our study experimentally tested the effect of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) on the standing stalks and weed seed bank in the Camargue (France), both of which present major challenges for farmers. Three duck densities were tested: (D1) 5 ducks ha−1 (historical nocturnal density), (D2) 23 ducks ha−1 (present nocturnal density), and (D3) 300 ducks ha−1 (Asian rice-duck farming density). The ducks reduced the stalks significantly: −27 % (D1), −52 % (D2), and −91 % (D3). Conversely, they decreased the number of seeds by only 3 % (D3) and the seed mass by about 21 % (D1 and D3), which was not significant. Besides they had no effect on seed species richness. This study clearly demonstrates that the winter-flooding effect on straw decomposition can be enhanced by waterfowl foraging, hence showing an agronomic benefit from ducks to farmers. However, there was no clear effect in terms of seed bank reduction.
KeywordsRice Straw disposal Waterfowl Weeds Winter-flooding
We are thankful to Frédéric Bon for lending us his rice field for the purpose of our research. We would like to thank François Cavallo and David Simpson for their help with the field work, Jean-Claude Mouret for the useful discussions, Guillaume Gayet and Olivier Devineau for their help concerning the statistical analysis, and Imogen Rutter for the English language edition. Finally, we acknowledge the advice of Alexander Wezel and François Mesléard on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work was funded by a doctoral grant from ONCFS to Claire Pernollet.
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