Wetenschappelijk artikelBarnacle geese Branta leucopsis breeding on Novaya Zemlya: current distribution and population size estimated from tracking data
The Russian breeding population of barnacle geese Branta leucopsis has shown a rapid increase in numbers since 1980, which has coincided with a southwest-wards breeding range expansion within the Russian Arctic. Here barnacle geese also started to occupy coastal and marsh land habitats, in which they were not know to nest on their traditional breeding grounds. While these changes have been well documented by studies and observations throughout the new breeding range of barnacle geese, observations are lacking from the traditional breeding grounds on Novaya Zemlya, as this area is remote and difficult to access. This is especially relevant given rapid climate warming in this area, which may impact local distribution and population size. We used GPS-tracking and behavioural biologging data from 46 individual barnacle geese captured on their wintering grounds to locate nest sites in the Russian Arctic and study nesting distribution in 2008–2010 and 2018–2020. Extrapolating from nest counts on Kolguev Island, we estimate the breeding population on Novaya Zemlya in 2018–2020 to range around 75,250 pairs although the confidence interval around this estimate was large. A comparison with the historical size of the barnacle goose population suggests an increase in the breeding population on Novaya Zemlya, corresponding with changes in other areas of the breeding range. Our results show that many barnacle geese on Novaya Zemlya currently nest on lowland tundra on Gusinaya Zemlya Peninsula. This region has been occupied by barnacle geese only since 1990 and appears to be mainly available for nesting in years with early spring. Tracking data are a valuable tool to increase our knowledge of remote locations, but counts of breeding individuals or nests are needed to further corroborate estimates of breeding populations based on tracking data.
- Polar Biology