Long-Term Effects of Grazing and Global Warming on the Composition and Carrying Capacity of Graminoid Marshes for Moulting Geese in East Greenland
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- Madsen, J., Jaspers, C., Tamstorf, M. et al. AMBIO (2011) 40: 638. doi:10.1007/s13280-011-0170-4
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Greening of the Arctic due to climate warming may provide herbivores with richer food supplies, resulting in higher herbivore densities. In turn, this may cause changes in vegetation composition and ecosystem function. In 1982–1984, we studied the ecology of non-breeding moulting geese in Jameson Land, low Arctic East Greenland. By then, geese consumed most of the graminoid production in available moss fens, and it appeared that the geese had filled up the available habitat. In 2008, we revisited the area and found that the number of moulting geese and the temperature sum for June–July had tripled, while the above-ground biomass in a moss fen ungrazed by geese had more than doubled. In a goose-grazed fen, the overall plant composition was unchanged, but the frequency of graminoids had decreased and the area with dead vegetation and open spots had increased. We suggest that climate warming has lead to increased productivity, allowing for higher numbers of moulting geese. However, the reduction of vegetation cover by grazing may have longer term negative consequences for the number of geese the habitat can sustain.