Recent experiments suggest that introduced, non-migratory Canada geese (Branta canadensis) may be facilitating the spread of exotic grasses and decline of native plant species abundance on small islets in the Georgia Basin, British Columbia, which otherwise harbour outstanding examples of threatened maritime meadow ecosystems. We examined this idea by testing if the presence of geese predicted the abundance of exotic grasses and native competitors at 2 spatial scales on 39 islands distributed throughout the Southern Gulf and San Juan Islands of Canada and the United States, respectively. At the plot level, we found significant positive relationships between the percent cover of goose feces and exotic annual grasses. However, this trend was absent at the scale of whole islands. Because rapid population expansion of introduced geese in the region only began in the 1980s, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the deleterious effects of geese on the cover of exotic annual grasses have yet to proceed beyond the local scale, and that a window of opportunity now exists in which to implement management strategies to curtail this emerging threat to native ecosystems. Research is now needed to test if the removal of geese results in the decline of exotic annual grasses.
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Vol. 17 • No. 4