Environmental change reduces body condition, but not population growth, in a high-arctic herbivore

  • Kate Layton-Matthews (Contributor)
  • Vidar Grøtan (Contributor)
  • Brage Bremset Hansen (Contributor)
  • Maarten Loonen (Contributor)
  • Eva Fuglei (Contributor)
  • Dylan Childs (Contributor)



Environmental change influences fitness-related traits and demographic rates, which in herbivores are often linked to resource-driven variation in body condition. Coupled body condition-demographic responses may therefore be important for herbivore population dynamics in fluctuating environments, such as the Arctic. We applied a transient Life-Table Response Experiment (‘transient-LTRE’) to demographic data from Svalbard barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), to quantify their population-dynamic responses to changes in body mass. We partitioned contributions from direct and delayed demographic and body condition-mediated processes to variation in population growth. Declines in body condition (1980-2017), which positively affected reproduction and fledgling survival, had negligible consequences for population growth. Instead, population growth rates were largely reproduction-driven, in part through positive responses to rapidly advancing spring phenology. The virtual lack of body condition-mediated effects indicates that herbivore population dynamics may be more resilient to changing body condition than previously expected, with implications for their persistence under environmental change.,Data of body mass was recorded during goose catches (during the moulting period at the breeding grounds at Ny-Ålesund Svalbard). Body mass (measured in g) was then entered into data bases along with the individual ID and age class (fledgling = FL or adult = Ad). Included in the dataset is the average annual body mass for a cohort , for fledglings (1991-2016) and adults (1980-2016), and the sample size for which the average was calculated.,Where average values of body mass are missing, there was no data available in this year.,
Date made available7-Oct-2021
PublisherUniversity of Groningen

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