, 40:638 | Cite as

Long-Term Effects of Grazing and Global Warming on the Composition and Carrying Capacity of Graminoid Marshes for Moulting Geese in East Greenland

  • Jesper Madsen
  • Cornelia Jaspers
  • Mikkel Tamstorf
  • Christian Ebbe Mortensen
  • Frank Rigét


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.


Barnacle geese Carex Climate change Grazing impact Herbivory Pink-footed geese 



This study was part of the IPY project ‘Back to the Future’. The authors are grateful to Terry Callaghan and Craig Tweedie for taking them onboard. The re-visit in 2008 was part of a study financed by the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, Greenland Government. The authors would like to thank the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) for making the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data freely available ( The authors thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript. This is a contribution by the Greenland Climate Research Centre (GCRC), Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk, Greenland.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesper Madsen
    • 1
  • Cornelia Jaspers
    • 2
  • Mikkel Tamstorf
    • 1
  • Christian Ebbe Mortensen
    • 3
  • Frank Rigét
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.DTU AquaCharlottenlundDenmark
  3. 3.SkovlundeDenmark

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