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Advances in laying date and increasing population size suggest positive responses to climate change in Common Eiders Somateria mollissima in Iceland


Corresponding author.


Models of climate change predict that its effects on animal populations will not always be negative, but most studies indicate negative associations between changes in climate and the phenology of animal migration and reproduction. For some populations, however, climate change may render particular environments more favourable, with positive effects on population growth. We used a 30-year population dataset on over 2000 Common Eiders Somateria mollissima at a colony in southwest Iceland to examine the response of this species to climate fluctuations. Eiders are strongly dependent on suitable climatic conditions for successful reproduction and survival. Temperatures in southwest Iceland, in both winter and summer, have generally increased over the past 30 years but have shown considerable fluctuation. We show that females laid earlier following mild winters and that year-to-year variation in the number of nests was related to the temperature during the breeding season 2 years previously. Milder summers could have positive effects on breeding success and offspring survival, producing an increase in nest numbers 2 years later when most Eiders recruit into the breeding population. In this part of their range, Eiders could benefit from a general warming of the climate.