Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 11, pp 1363–1372 | Cite as

Effects of snow cover on the timing and success of reproduction in high-Arctic pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus

  • Jesper MadsenEmail author
  • Mikkel Tamstorf
  • Marcel Klaassen
  • Nina Eide
  • Christian Glahder
  • Frank Rigét
  • Helene Nyegaard
  • Fred Cottaar
Original Paper


During four breeding seasons, 2003–2006, we studied the relationship between snow cover and nesting performance in pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) in a key breeding site on Svalbard. Snow cover in late May, i.e., at the time of egg laying of geese, was derived from MODIS satellite images. Snow cover had a profound cascading effect on reproductive output via the number of nesting pairs and timing of nesting, which affected nest success, while there was only a tendency for a negative effect on clutch size. Hence, we estimated a five-fold difference in the number of young produced (to post-hatching) between years with little snow and years with high snow cover. The results from the study area correlated with whole-population productivity estimates recorded in autumn. Thus, snow cover derived from MODIS satellite images appears to provide a useful indicator of the breeding conditions in the Arctic.


Annual variation Breeding success Migratory birds MODIS Nest-site availability Satellite images 



The study was carried out under the EU fifth Framework project FRAGILE (EVK2-2001-00235) and partly supported by a grant from the Research Council for Earth and Life Sciences, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (ALW–NWO) to MK. For contribution to data collection in the field we thank Espen Bergersen, Tony Fox, Erle Franzén, Ida Eskesen, Ingunn Holoymoen, Eckhart Kuijken, Per Ivar Nicolaisen and Christine Verscheure. University of Svalbard is thanked for supporting the study logistically. The Governor of Svalbard kindly granted us access to Sassendalen and gave permission to collect goose eggs for analysis. This is publication 4055 from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO–KNAW). Three anonymous reviewers provided useful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesper Madsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mikkel Tamstorf
    • 1
  • Marcel Klaassen
    • 2
  • Nina Eide
    • 3
  • Christian Glahder
    • 1
  • Frank Rigét
    • 1
  • Helene Nyegaard
    • 1
  • Fred Cottaar
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research InstituteUniversity of AarhusRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Centre for LimnologyMaarssenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Norwegian Institute for Nature ResearchLillehammerNorway
  4. 4.HaarlemThe Netherlands

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