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Agricultural land cover structure rather than crop-field size determines corn consumption by eastern wild turkey Meleagris gallopavo– stable isotope evidence

Author: 
Nickson Erick Otieno, Giliano Casavana, Alexander Tellier and Julian Giroux
Subject Area: 
Life Sciences
Abstract: 

Eastern Wild Turkey is considered a corn pest across its range despite lack of solid evidence. Analyses of δ13C and δ15N isotopes in EWT feather tissues and food sources were used to test influence of key land cover features on EWT assemblage and corn consumption within 3 focal regions across farmlands of south-eastern Quebec, using Mixing Model tools and 3-year fall and winter observation datasets from 29 sites. Mean EWT abundance was highest in the most structurally heterogeneous Asbestos region (50.5±6.2).Contribution of corn to EWT diet was influenced by forest cover proportion (R2 = 0.650, p = 0.046) but not crop-field size. Accordingly, most corn was consumed across the most forested Dunham region. Although crop-field size strongly influenced EWT abundance (R2 = 0.451, p < 0.016) it was unrelated to corn consumed indicating EWT’s non-attraction to corn. Conversely, total road network length negatively affected EWT corn consumption (R2 = -0.764, p = 0.033) suggesting impact of hunter traffic.C3 plants were the most important food source for adult EWT while juveniles mostly consumed invertebrates. In conclusion, EWT consumed corn only opportunistically when corn neighboured forest, and are potentially more important as natural pest controllers rather than as corn pests.

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