Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 153–162 | Cite as

The dilemma of where to nest: influence of spring snow cover, food proximity and predator abundance on reproductive success of an arctic-breeding migratory herbivore is dependent on nesting habitat choice

  • Helen B. Anderson
  • Jesper Madsen
  • Eva Fuglei
  • Gitte H. Jensen
  • Sarah J. Woodin
  • René van der Wal
Original Paper

Abstract

Pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus nest in two contrasting but commonly found habitats: steep cliffs and open tundra slopes. In Svalbard, we compared nest densities and nesting success in these two environments over ten breeding seasons to assess the impact of spring snow cover, food availability to nesting adults and arctic fox Vulpes lagopus (main terrestrial predator) abundance. In years with extensive spring snow cover, fewer geese at both colonies attempted to breed, possibly because snow cover limited pre-nesting feeding opportunities, leaving adults in poor breeding condition. Nesting success at the steep cliff colony was lower with extensive spring snow cover; such conditions force birds to commit to repeated and prolonged recess periods at far distant feeding areas, leaving nests open to predation. By contrast, nesting success at the open tundra slope was not affected by spring snow cover; even if birds were apparently in poor condition they could feed immediately adjacent to their nests and defend them from predators. Foxes were the main nest predator in the open tundra slopes but avian predators likely had a larger impact at the steep cliffs colony. Thus, the relative inaccessibility of the cliffs habitat may bring protection from foxes but also deprives geese from readily accessing feeding areas, with the best prospects for successful nesting in low spring snow cover years. Our findings indicate that spring snow cover, predator abundance and food proximity did not uniformly influence nesting success of this herbivore, and their effects were dependent on nesting habitat choice.

Keywords

Pink-footed geese Habitat Nesting success Predation Snow 

Supplementary material

300_2014_1574_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (261 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 261 kb)

References

  1. Anderson HB, Godfrey TG, Woodin SJ, Van der Wal R (2012) Finding food in a highly seasonal landscape: where and how pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus feed during the Arctic spring. J Avian Biol 43:415–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ankney CD, MacInnes CD (1978) Nutrient reserves and reproductive performance of female lesser snow geese. Auk 95:459–471Google Scholar
  3. Arzel C, Elmberg J, Guillemain M (2006) Ecology of spring-migrating Anatidae: a review. J Ornithol 147:167–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Black JM, Owen M (1995) Reproductive performance and assortative pairing in relation to age in barnacle geese. J Anim Ecol 64:234–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Davis JB, Kaminski RM, Stephens SE (1998) Wood duck eggshell membranes predict duckling numbers. Wildl Soc B 26:299–301Google Scholar
  6. Eide NE, Jepsen JU, Prestrud P (2004) Spatial organization of reproductive Arctic foxes Alopex lagopus: responses to changes in spatial and temporal availability of prey. J Anim Ecol 73:1056–1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eide NE, Eid PM, Prestrud P, Swenson JE (2005) Dietary responses of arctic foxes Alopex lagopus to changing prey availability across and Arctic landscape. Wildl Biol 11:109–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eide NE, Stein A, Prestrud P, Yoccoz NG, Fuglei E (2012) Reproductive responses to spatial and temporal prey availability in a coastal Arctic fox population. J Anim Ecol 81:640–648PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forslund P, Larsson K (1992) Age-related reproductive success in the barnacle goose. J Anim Ecol 61:195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fox AD, Francis IS, Bergersen E (2006) Diet and habitat use of Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus during arrival and pre-breeding periods in Adventdalen. Ardea 94:691–699Google Scholar
  11. Frafjord K (1990) A study of the pink-footed goose in Gipsdalen, Svalbard, during the pre-breeding and early breeding periods. In: Severinsen T, Hansson R (eds) Environmental Atlas Gipsdalen, Svalbard Vol. III. Reports on the Fauna of Gipsdalen, Norsk Polarintitutt Rapport nr. 66, Norwegian Polar Institute, Olso, pp 1–18Google Scholar
  12. Frafjord K (1993) The arctic fox as a predator on the Svalbard pink-footed goose. Fauna 46:10–14Google Scholar
  13. Fuglei E (2006) Arctic fox. In: Kovacs KM, Lydersen C (eds) Birds and mammals of Svalbard. Norsk Polarintitutt, Oslo, pp 77–80Google Scholar
  14. Glahder CM, Fox AD, Hübner CE, Madsen J, Tombre IM (2006) Pre-nesting site use of satellite transmitter tagged Svalbard Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Ardea 94:679–690Google Scholar
  15. Gunnarsson TG, Gill JA, Newton J, Potts PM, Sutherland WJ (2005) Seasonal matching of habitat quality and fitness in a migratory bird. Proc R Soc B 272:2319–2323PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heppleston PB (1972) The comparative breeding ecology of oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus L.) in inland and coastal habitats. J Anim Ecol 41:23–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Inglis IR (1977) The breeding behaviour of the pink-footed goose: behavioural correlates of nesting success. Anim Behav 25:747–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jepsen JU, Eide NE, Prestrud P, Jacobsen LB (2002) The importance of prey distribution in habitat use by arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus). Can J Zool 80:418–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Johnson DH, Shaffer TL (1990) Estimating nest success: when Mayfield wins. Auk 107:595–600Google Scholar
  20. Klaassen M, Abraham KE, Jefferies RL, Vrtiska M (2006) Factors affecting the site of investment, and the reliance on savings for arctic breeders: the capital-income dichotomy revisited. Ardea 94:371–384Google Scholar
  21. Løvenskiold HL (1964) Avifauna Svalbardensis. Nor Polarinst Skr 129:125–134Google Scholar
  22. Madsen J, Bregnballe T, Hastrup A (1992) Impact of the arctic fox Alopex lagopus on nesting success of geese in southeast Svalbard, 1989. Polar Res 11:25–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Madsen J, Bregnballe T, Frikke J, Kristensen JB (1998) Correlates of predator abundance with snow and ice conditions and their role in determining timing of nesting and breeding success in Svalbard light-bellied brent geese Branta bernicla hrota. In: Mehlum F, Black JM, Madsen J (eds) Research on Arctic Geese. Proceedings of the Svalbard Goose Symposium, Oslo, Norway, 1997. Norsk Polarinstitutt Skr 200, Norsk Polarinstitutt, Oslo, pp 221–234Google Scholar
  24. Madsen J, Tamstorf M, Klaassen M, Eide N, Glahder C, Rigét F, Nyegaard H, Cottaar F (2007) Effects of snow cover on the timing and success of reproduction in high-Arctic pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Polar Biol 30:1363–1372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Madsen J, Tombre I, Eide NE (2009) Effects of disturbance on geese in Svalbard: implications for regulating increasing tourism. Polar Res 28:376–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meltofte H, Piersma T, Boyd H, McCaffery B, Ganter B, Golovnyuk VV, Graham K, Gratto-Trevor CL, Morrison RIG, Nol E, Rösner HU, Schamel D, Schekkerman H, Soloviev MY, Tomkovich PS, Tracey DM, Tulp I, Wennerberg L (2007) Effects of climate variation on the breeding ecology of Arctic shorebirds. Meddelelser om Grønland 59:1–48Google Scholar
  27. Meltofte H, Høye TT, Schmidt NM (2008) Effects of food availability, snow and predation on breeding performance of waders at Zachenberg. Adv Ecol Res 40:325–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nyholm ES (1965) Ecological observations on the geese of Spitsbergen. Ann Zool Fenn 2:197–207Google Scholar
  29. Piechura J, Walczowski W (2009) Warming of the west Spitsbergen current and sea ice north of Svalbard. Oceanologia 51:147–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Prestrud P (1992) Food habitats and observations of the hunting behaviour of arctic foxes, Alopex lagopus, in Svalbard. Can Field Nat 106:225–236Google Scholar
  31. Prop J, de Vries J (1993) Impact of snow and food conditions on the reproductive performance of barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis). Ornis Scand 24:110–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Prop J, Oudman T, Van Spanje TM, Wolters EH (2013) Patterns of predation of pink-footed goose nests by polar bear. Ornis Nor 36:38–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Raveling DG (1979) The annual cycle of body composition of Canada geese with special reference to control of reproduction. Auk 96:234–252Google Scholar
  34. Samelius G, Alisauskas RT (2006) Sex-biased costs in nest defence behaviours by lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens): consequences of parental roles? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59:805–810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Semmens KA, Ramage J, Bartsch A, Liston GE (2013) Early snowmelt events: detection, distribution, and significance in a major sub-arctic watershed. Environ Res Lett 8, article no. 014020. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014020
  36. Sigurdsson JB (1974) Studies on breeding biology of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus). In: Sigurdsson JB, Gardarsson A (eds) Skýrsla um rannsóknir I þjórsárverum 1972. Orkustofnun Raforkudeild, Reykjavik, pp 1.2–1.39Google Scholar
  37. Spaans B, Van der Veer W, Ebbinge BS (1999) Cost of incubation in a greater white-fronted goose. Waterbirds 22:151–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Spaans B, Van’t Hoff CA, Van der Veer W, Ebbinge BS (2007) The significance of female body stores for egg laying and incubation in dark-bellied brent geese Branta bernicla bernicla. Ardea 95:3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Speed JDM, Woodin SJ, Tømmervik H, Tamstorf MP, Van der Wal R (2009) Predicting habitat utilization and extent of ecosystem disturbance by an increasing herbivore population. Ecosystems 12:349–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tombre IM, Mehlum F, Loonen MJJE (1998) The Kongsfjorden colony of barnacle geese: nest distribution and the use of breeding islands 1980–1997. In: Mehlum F, Black JM, Madsen J (eds) Research on Arctic Geese. Proceedings of the Svalbard Goose Symposium, Oslo, Norway, 1997. Norsk Polarinstitutt Skr 200, Norsk Polarintitutt, Oslo, pp 57–65Google Scholar
  41. Wisz MS, Tamstorf MP, Madsen J, Jespersen M (2008) Where might the western Svalbard tundra be vulnerable to pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) population expansion? Divers Distrib 14:26–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen B. Anderson
    • 1
  • Jesper Madsen
    • 2
  • Eva Fuglei
    • 3
  • Gitte H. Jensen
    • 2
  • Sarah J. Woodin
    • 1
  • René van der Wal
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Department of Bioscience - KaløAarhus UniversityRøndeDenmark
  3. 3.Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram CentreTromsøNorway

Personalised recommendations