Survival of Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus in relation to winter climate, density and land-use

Authors

  • MARC KÉRY,

    1. CEFE, UMR 5175, CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 05, France; National Environmental Research Institute (NERI), Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
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  • JESPER MADSEN,

    1. CEFE, UMR 5175, CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 05, France; National Environmental Research Institute (NERI), Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
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  • JEAN-DOMINIQUE LEBRETON

    1. CEFE, UMR 5175, CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 05, France; National Environmental Research Institute (NERI), Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
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and present address: Marc Kéry, Swiss Ornithological Institute, 6204 Sempach, Switzerland. E-mail: marc.kery@vogelwarte.ch

Summary

  • 1Global change may strongly affect population dynamics, but mechanisms remain elusive. Several Arctic goose species have increased considerably during the last decades. Climate, and land-use changes outside the breeding area have been invoked as causes but have not been tested. We analysed the relationships between conditions on wintering and migration staging areas, and survival in Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Using mark–recapture data from 14 winters (1989–2002) we estimated survival rates and tested for time trends, and effects of climate, goose density and land-use.
  • 2Resighting rates differed for males and females, were higher for birds recorded during the previous winter and changed smoothly over time. Survival rates did not differ between sexes, varied over time with a nonsignificant negative trend, and were higher for the first interval after marking (0·88–0·97) than afterwards (0·74–0·93). Average survival estimates were 0·967 (SE 0·026) for the first and 0·861 (SE 0·023) for all later survival intervals.
  • 3We combined 16 winter and spring climate covariates into two principal components axes. F1 was related to warm/wet winters and an early spring on the Norwegian staging areas and F2 to dry/cold winters. We expected that F1 would be positively related to survival and F2 negatively. F1 explained 23% of survival variation (F1,10 = 3·24; one-sided P = 0·051) when alone in a model and 28% (F1,9 = 4·50; one-sided P = 0·031) in a model that assumed a trend for survival. In contrast, neither F2 nor density, land-use, or scaring practices on important Norwegian spring staging areas had discernible effects on survival.
  • 4Climate change may thus affect goose population dynamics, with warmer winters and earlier springs enhancing survival and fecundity. A possible mechanism is increased food availability on Danish wintering and Norwegian staging areas. As geese are among the main herbivores in Arctic ecosystems, climate change, by increasing goose populations, may have important indirect effects on Arctic vegetation. Our study also highlights the importance of events outside the breeding area for the population dynamics of migrant species.

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