July 12, 2016
Ornithologists get curious data:
barnacle goose population skyrockets
Andrey Bushuev, PhD, 2016 Interdisciplinary Arctic Expedition participant made significant and curious observations during the expedition. He shared his article on the barnacle goose population increase.
A barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) is an average-sized goose that nests in the arctic tundra on several North Atlantic islands (Novaya Zemlya, Spitzbergen and the eastern coast of Greenland). The birds pass the winter in various areas of Western Europe: the Greenland geese spend winters in western Ireland and on the Hebrides, the Spitzbergen geese fly to the Irish Sea coast and to the border between Scotland and England. The Novaya Zemlya and Vaygach geese spend their winters in the Netherlands.
Unlike many other Arctic birds, barnacle goose has not suffered from the global climate change during previous decades, and, on the contrary, its population level has enlarged. The number of birds has increased both in the breeding sites and wintering grounds; new breeding grounds have emerged. Novaya Zemlya geese started to breed on the islands of the Baltic sea and on its shores, thus forming the fourth largest population of the species. They spend winter together with the parent population, namely on the northern coast of the Netherlands, preeminently in Friesland. Due to mild winters and many appropriate species sites, the Netherlands turned into ideal territory for wintering and breeding of geese. The numbers of the barnacle geese and other geese increased to the extent when they create certain problems for the local farmers. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the barnacle goose, compared to the situation in the 80s, delay their migration to the Arctic terms for up to six weeks. Apart from that, a part of geese remains in the Netherlands for breeding and form a new, currently small population of 10.000 species in number. The reasons behind this rapid habitat expansion is not clear as of now.
Researchers make assumptions on the geese number primarily at their wintering sites. The changes at nesting sites are researched insufficiently. It specifically concerns the population of the barnacle goose from Novaya Zemlya and Vaygach Island, even though this population is several times larger than any other population of the species. A Vaygach old-timer Andrey Vylkа reports that the density of the barnacle goose nests is annually increasing, and in 2016 it was as high as ever.
The increase in the barnacle goose population attracted attention of the Polar Expedition Kartesh project. A part of the 2016 Interdisciplinary Research Expedition a group of the LMSU Biology Faculty observed bird legacy of Matveev and Vaygach islands as well as Cape Sakhanin of the Yuzhny Island of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.
Andrey Bushuev, PhD, ornithologist
As the Polar Expedition Kartesh researchers and photographers Alexander Terekhov and Andrey Yermakov (2015 and 2016 expedition participants) report, in 2015 they have not noticed a nest of the barnacle goose at the bird colonies of Yuzhny island. However, researchers report that in 2016 they discovered a large number of the barnacle geese nests.
Polar Expedition Kartesh project continues the barnacle goose research.