Increasing Arctic cloud cover is expected to limit gosling growth and survival

  • Verhoeven, M. (Speaker)
  • Bart Nolet (Contributor)
  • van Gils, J. (Contributor)
  • Juul Limpens (Contributor)
  • Elzenga, T. (Contributor)
  • Emanuele Pallozzi (Contributor)
  • Angela Augusti (Contributor)
  • Marion Maturilli (Contributor)
  • Loonen, M. (Contributor)

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Temperature and precipitation in the Arctic are projected to continue increasing with a changing climate. Amplified warming will put migratory birds under pressure to arrive and breed earlier in order to keep up with local phenology, but the consequences of increased precipitation are less clear. On Svalbard, the survival of barnacle goslings (Branta leucopsis) is negatively related to precipitation; fewer goslings fledge in wetter summers. The reasons for this relationship are unknown. In wetter years there is less grass for goslings to forage on, but it is unlikely that precipitation limits grass growth in the high Arctic. We hypothesized that it is not rain but rather clouds that diminish gosling survival by limiting the light available for grass growth. We experimentally simulated the effect of cloud cover on grass abundance and quality. Under shaded conditions mimicking wetter years, grass abundance and quality declined below the levels necessary for gosling growth and survival. We used this information to hindcast grass quality for the past 30 years and relate it to gosling growth and survival in those years. We have also started to model how a predicted increase in Arctic cloud cover, resulting from ocean evaporation and sea-ice retreat, will affect goslings.
Event titleNetherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2022
Event typeConference
Conference number15
Organiser Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN)
LocationLunteren, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational