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A Linear Programming Model of Diet Choice of Free-Living Beavers

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Linear programming has been remarkably successful in predicting the diet choice of generalist herbivores. We used this technique to test the diet choice of free-living beavers (Castor fiber) in thc Biesbosch (The Netherlands) under different foraging goals, i.e. maximization of intake of energy, nitrogen, phosphorus or sodium, or minimization of feeding time. Three food types were distinguished, i.e. woody food, herbs and roots of monocots. We assessed forage quality by measuring the dry matter, energy and mineral contents of the food plants as well as food intake rates, digestibility and metabolisability in captive beavers. Actual diet was in accordance with the predicted food choice in the summer when the beavers were minimizing feeding time by mainly eating woody food. However, in the winter and spring, the beavers were predicted to feed upon non-woody food, whereas they (again) nearly exclusively ate woody food. The major reasons for this discrepancy might be: (1) the foraging constraints were inappropriate, (2) the foraging goals were inadequately defined, or (3) the beavers were not foraging optimally. We suggest that future work should take some additional constraints and foraging goals into account.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (IBN-DLO), P.O. Box 23, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands; 2: Zoological Laboratory, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands; 3: Dept. of Ecology, Catholic University of Njmegen, Toernooiveld, 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands; 4: Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, State University Leiden, P.O. Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands


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