Hyper-abundant arctic-nesting geese and the decline of Canadian arctic-nesting shorebirds, an empirical test
Arctic ecosystems are far removed from the direct effects of the soaring human population because they are remote and sparsely inhabited. However, ironically, trends in recent decades suggest that Arctic ecosystems may undergo the fastest and most radical changes on the planet as a consequence of human activities. This is in particular because of their sensitivity to current anthropogenic changes in global climate. These climate induced changes in Arctic ecological conditions have rightfully attracted the attention of the research community. However, this focus comes at the expense of research on other forms of anthropogenic disturbance in the Arctic. One of the most dramatic examples is the explosion of arctic-nesting snow geese populations. Their numbers soared from less than 100 000 individuals to possibly over 10 million in only a small number of decades. This resulted from changes in agricultural practices and of the ability of these species to shift their wintering grounds to these novels, man-made habitats. The focus of this proposal is to repeat detailed, ground-based data collection carried out 22 years ago, to evaluate the cascade of changes in habitats and avifauna that have occurred, and the role played in these changes by changes in the intensity of goose grazing and climate.