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Winter Harshness and Post-Winter Body Condition on Spring-Fattening in Pink-footed Geese


A study, using a long-term mark-resighting dataset and scoring of body condition, for the Svalbard-breeding population of pink-footed geese has demonstrate a substantial effect of winter harshness on post-winter body condition. However, this effect was compensated along the spring migration corridor, and did not persist long enough to influence future reproduction. This highlights the importance of temporal scale when assessing impacts of environmental effects, and suggests a state-dependent physiological mechanism adjusting energy accumulation according to internal energy stores carried into spring. In support of these findings, the development of body condition was unaffected by whether geese used supplementary feeding sites or not. While there was no effect of winter harshness on the average population pre-breeding body condition, individual variations in early spring body condition (probably related to different life-histories) were partly traceable throughout spring. This strongly indicates a carry-over effect on the individual level, possibly related to differences in dominance, site use, disturbance or migration strategy, which may potentially affect future reproduction.

The study is described in an article published in PlosOne and is available on-line.

A PDF copy is attached:

Pink-footed geese in ploughed field. Photo by Kevin Clausen