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Status of the endangered ivory gull, Pagophila eburnea, in Greenland

Abstract

The ivory gull, a rare high-Arctic species whose main habitat throughout the year is sea ice, is currently listed in Greenland as ‘Vulnerable’, and as ‘Endangered’ in Canada, where the population declined by 80% in 20 years. Despite this great concern, the status of the species in Greenland has been largely unknown as it breeds in remote areas and in colonies for which population data has rarely, if at all, been collected. Combining bibliographical research, land surveys, aerial surveys and satellite tracking, we were able to identify 35 breeding sites, including 20 new ones, in North and East Greenland. Most colonies are found in North Greenland and the largest are located on islands and lowlands. The current best estimate for the size of the Greenland population is approx. 1,800 breeding birds, but the real figure is probably >4,000 adult birds (i.e. >2,000 pairs) since all colonies have not yet been discovered and since only 50% or less of the breeding birds are usually present in the colonies at the time the censuses take place. Although this estimate is four to eight times higher than that previously arrived at, the species seems to be declining in the south of its Greenland breeding range, while in North Greenland the trends are unclear and unpredictable, calling for increased monitoring efforts.

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Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to Freddy Mariaux, Luc Hardy, Benoît Sittler, Pierre Leguesdron, Vladimir Gilg, Kent Olsen and Lars Maltha Rasmussen who helped in the field, to captain Leif Petersen who navigated the aircraft in 2008, to Carey Smith, Hallvard Strøm, Maria Gavrilo, Andrei Volkov, Hans Meltofte and Niels Martin Schmidt who commented and improved previous drafts of the manuscript, to Ko de Korte, Hans Meltofte, Tony Fox, Fin Bo Madsen, Hauge Andersson, Sir Chris Bonington, Johannes Lang, Eckart Håkansson and Peter Lyngs for providing unpublished data, to John Lau Hansen (Greenland Command), the military staff of Station Nord, the Sirius Sledge Patrol, the Greenland Home Rule, the Danish Polar Center, Polog, Norlandair (formerly Air Iceland), Kirsten Fadnæs Eriksen, Nette Levermann, Kristbjörg Björnsdóttir, Hauge Andersson, Aka Lynge, Jan Almqvist, Sebastian Ravn Rasmussen, David Smari Johannsson and Friðrik Adolfsson who helped with the permits and the logistics. Funding and equipments were provided by the National Geographic Society, Prix GORE-TEX initiative, Fondation Avenir Finance, the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, Greenland Home Rule, the Arctic Ocean Diversity Census of Marine Life Project, Magasins Intermarché, Société Henry Maire, Lestra, MSR, GREA, F. Paulsen and other contributors.

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Correspondence to Olivier Gilg.

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Gilg, O., Boertmann, D., Merkel, F. et al. Status of the endangered ivory gull, Pagophila eburnea, in Greenland. Polar Biol 32, 1275–1286 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-009-0623-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-009-0623-4

Keywords

  • Pagophila eburnea
  • Greenland
  • Endangered species
  • Satellite tracking
  • Climate change
  • Sea-ice