Geese breed at a former nuclear weapons test site in the Arctic

Geese breed at a former nuclear weapons test site in the Arctic

Pink-footed geese migrate to a brand new breeding web site within the Arctic

Jurgen Peter Kjeldsen

Some pink-footed geese have begun migrating in the summertime to the Arctic island of Novaya Zemlya, about 1,000 kilometers from their common breeding grounds on the island of Svalbard, to breed.

Circumstances on Novaya Zemlya, a Russian island within the Arctic, have been too chilly for breeding geese. However with the arrival of spring circumstances earlier within the 12 months on account of international warming, the island turned unsuitable. Jesper Madsen at Aarhus College in Denmark. For over 15 years this inhabitants has created a brand new migration path to Novaya Zemlya and new lodging factors alongside the best way.

“It is a massive shock,” Madsen says. “That is actually cool to see.”

Another birds are altering their vary in response to international warming, however that is probably the most dramatic change of this sort ever noticed in a migratory hen.

There are two populations of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus). One winters in England and Eire and migrates to Iceland and Greenland to breed in the summertime.

Others overwinter within the Netherlands and Denmark, migrating to Svalbard to breed. Within the spring, this inhabitants flies throughout most of Norway, resting on the bottom earlier than a protracted flight over the ocean to Svalbard. Birds return from this route within the fall.

Nevertheless, within the Nineteen Nineties, folks started recognizing people and flocks of small pink-footed geese in southern Sweden within the spring and autumn. By the 2000s, bigger flocks have been being noticed often.

To search out out the place they went in 2018 and 2019, Madsen and his colleagues put GPS tags on 21 geese. Half of them flew to part of Novaya Zemlya, which till 1990 was used to check nuclear bombs, Madsen stated. Even Russian biologists should not allowed to go there, so their existence wouldn’t have been found with out GPS trackers, Madsen says.

As an alternative of flying throughout Norway, these birds migrate by way of Sweden and Finland, and GPS information reveals the birds nest there. Many return with their offspring.

Researchers estimate that the Novaya Zemlya inhabitants has already reached round 4,000 birds. Because of routine non-GPS tagging of some birds on the route from Denmark to Svalbard, they have been in a position to inform that a few of these geese had traveled to Svalbard earlier than and adjusted course, younger geese are more likely to change course.

The crew’s speculation is that these geese realized the brand new migration by copying taiga bean geese (Anser fabalis). Some taiga bean geese fly to Novaya Zemlya in late spring to exchange and alter their flight feathers as an alternative of breeding.

“That is the most effective clarification we’ve got,” Madsen says. If true, it might be a uncommon instance of cultural information switch occurring between species.

Madsen thinks the change is occurring not solely due to the warming of Novaya Zemlya, but in addition due to the rising difficulties with the standard migration route. Pink-footed geese now should compete with mussel geese (bran leukopsis) and adjustments in farming practices are additionally decreasing meals availability.

“That is actually elegant work that mixes conventional, old school birdwatching and census with tagging, GPS and local weather information to disclose a rare new story,” he says. Richard Gregory On the RSPB Middle for Conservation Science within the UK, which was not concerned within the analysis.

“On the one hand, it offers hope that migratory hen species can reply to local weather change in comparatively quick intervals of time, nevertheless it does ring the alarm bells concerning the tempo of change,” he says.


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