Madsen, J, Tamstorf, M, Klaassen, M, Eide, N, Glahder, C, Riget, F, Nyegaard, H, Cottaar, F (2007). Effects of snow cover on the timing and success of reproduction in high-Arctic pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. POLAR BIOLOGY, 30(11), 1363-1372.
During four breeding seasons, 2003-2006, we studied the relationship between snow cover and nesting performance in pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) in a key breeding site on Svalbard. Snow cover in late May, i.e., at the time of egg laying of geese, was derived from MODIS satellite images. Snow cover had a profound cascading effect on reproductive output via the number of nesting pairs and timing of nesting, which affected nest success, while there was only a tendency for a negative effect on clutch size. Hence, we estimated a five-fold difference in the number of young produced (to post-hatching) between years with little snow and years with high snow cover. The results from the study area correlated with whole-population productivity estimates recorded in autumn. Thus, snow cover derived from MODIS satellite images appears to provide a useful indicator of the breeding conditions in the Arctic.