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1 July 2016 Meta-Analysis of Diet Composition and Potential Conflict of Wild Horses with Livestock and Wild Ungulates on Western Rangelands of North America
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Abstract

Wild horse (Equus ferus caballus) management in western North America is an escalating concern for ecological integrity on these landscapes. Identifying potential diet overlap among horses, livestock, and wildlife will inform management decisions to optimize multiple interests.To understand dietary relationships, we conducted a quantitative synthesis of microhistological fecal studies for wild horse, beef cattle (Bos spp.), domestic sheep (Ovis aries), elk (Cervus elaphus), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) diet composition on western rangelands of North America. Our search yielded 60 studies from 14 states, 1 Canadian province, and 2 Mexican states with 392 unique species-season samples. We summarized plant species into graminoid, forb, and browse functional groups. For wild horses, seasonal diet composition means for graminoids (77–89%), forbs (4–15%), and browse (3–10%) did not vary seasonally for any plant group (P ≤ 0.05). Univariate analyses and the calculation of effect sizes corroborated our finding that graminoid composition explained the potential overlap of wild horses with cattle regardless of season, with sheep and elk in the spring, with sheep in the summer, and with elk in the fall and winter. Although data indicate wild horse diets are primarily composed of graminoids, several studies reported unusual, regionally specific shifts in response to winter snow that limited graminoid accessibility, leading to higher browse composition. Season, plant composition, and ungulate assemblage may all influence dietary competition between wild horses and other large ungulate sharing western North American rangelands; however, the low and nonsignificant heterogeneity values at alpha 0.01 for cattle:horse effect size comparisons suggest that cattle and horses respond to regional and seasonal variation similarly–a result not observed for other ungulate:horse comparisons. Our meta-analysis provides a robust data set for evaluations of diet composition for wild horses, livestock, and wildlife, whereas no empirical studies have assessed all species together.

© 2016 The Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
J. Derek Scasta, Jeffrey L. Beck, and Catherine J. Angwin "Meta-Analysis of Diet Composition and Potential Conflict of Wild Horses with Livestock and Wild Ungulates on Western Rangelands of North America," Rangeland Ecology and Management 69(4), 310-318, (1 July 2016). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2016.01.001
Received: 26 January 2015; Accepted: 1 January 2016; Published: 1 July 2016
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