Polar Biology

, 30:601 | Cite as

Differences in food abundance cause inter-annual variation in the breeding phenology of High Arctic waders

  • Hans Meltofte
  • Toke T. Høye
  • Niels M. Schmidt
  • Mads C. Forchhammer
Original Paper


Previous work has shown that High Arctic waders in Greenland are “income breeders”, i.e. the resources used for egg formation are based almost entirely on biomass obtained on the breeding grounds. Thus, their breeding phenology is expected to be highly sensitive to inter-annual variation in food abundance during the pre-laying period. Early spring snow-cover may also influence timing of egg-laying either directly or mediated through food resources. Here, we report on the inter-annual variation in clutch initiation of three wader species breeding in High Arctic Greenland, Sanderling (Calidris alba), Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), in relation to spring snow-cover and spring arthropod abundance over ten breeding seasons at Zackenberg Research Station 1995–2005. Food abundance had the strongest effect on timing of clutch initiation, while the proportion of snow-free land had a weaker but still significant effect, i.e. more food and more snow-free land both result in earlier egg-laying. We hypothesize that food is most important when there is sufficient snow-free land to nest on, while snow-cover is of increasing importance in years with late snowmelt.


Snow Cover Food Abundance Clutch Initiation Breeding Phenology Clutch Initiation Date 
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We thank the Danish Polar Center for access and accommodation at the Zackenberg Research Station, and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency for financing the monitoring during all the years. MCF and TTH were supported by a grant from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Ingrid Tulp and Hans Schekkerman kindly criticized an earlier draft of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Meltofte
    • 1
  • Toke T. Høye
    • 1
    • 2
  • Niels M. Schmidt
    • 1
  • Mads C. Forchhammer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Arctic EnvironmentNational Environmental Research InstituteRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Population Biology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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