Aikens E.O., Kauffman M.J., Merkle J.A., Dwinnell S.P.H., Fralick G.L., and Monteith K.L. (2017). The greenscape shapes surfing of resource waves in a large migratory herbivore. Ecology Letters, 20(6): 741-750. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12772.
The Green Wave Hypothesis posits that herbivore migration manifests in response to waves of spring green-up (i.e. green-wave surfing). Nonetheless, empirical support for the Green Wave Hypothesis is mixed, and a framework for understanding variation in surfing is lacking. In a population of migratory mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), 31% surfed plant phenology in spring as well as a theoretically perfect surfer, and 98% surfed better than random. Green-wave surfing varied among individuals and was unrelated to age or energetic state. Instead, the greenscape, which we define as the order, rate and duration of green-up along migratory routes, was the primary factor influencing surfing. Our results indicate that migratory routes are more than a link between seasonal ranges, and they provide an important, but often overlooked, foraging habitat. In addition, the spatiotemporal configuration of forage resources that propagate along migratory routes shape animal movement and presumably, energy gains during migration.