Goose populations molting in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska have changed in size and distribution over the past 30 years. Black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) are relatively stable in numbers but are shifting from large, inland lakes to salt marshes. Concurrently, populations of greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons frontalis) have increased seven fold. Populations of Canada geese (Branta canadensis and/or B. hutchinsii) are stable with little indication of distributional shifts. The lesser snow goose (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) population is proportionally small, but increasing rapidly. Coastline erosion of the Beaufort Sea has altered tundra habitats by allowing saltwater intrusion, which has resulted in shifts in composition of forage plant species. We propose two alternative hypotheses for the observed shift in black brant distribution. Ecological change may have altered optimal foraging habitats for molting birds, or alternatively, interspecific competition between black brant and greater white-fronted geese may be excluding black brant from preferred habitats. Regardless of the causative mechanism, the observed shifts in species distributions are an important consideration for future resource planning. ?? 2007 Springer-Verlag.
Additional publication details
Changes in abundance and spatial distribution of geese molting near Teshekpuk Lake, Alaska: Interspecific competition or ecological change?