Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

Volume

45

Issue

4

Publication Date

1-1-2013

Abstract

Ecological succession and climate change are pushing tundra as well as Arctic and subarctic lowland plant communities toward increased woody vegetation cover. However, areas along the Hudson Bay Lowlands that are over-grazed by hyper-abundant lesser snow geese are experiencing drastic losses of grass, sedge, and woody cover. We assessed long-term changes in proportional ground cover and habitat patch characteristic at a subartic supratidal marsh that was largely vacated by breeding snow geese over a decade ago. We found no evidence of habitat recovery, Rather, snow geese leave a legacy on the land that propagates degradation of habitat recovery. Rather, snow geese leave a legacy on the land that propagates degradation of habitat long after their direct removal of vegetation through foraging. Over a 35 year period, we documented a 46 percent reduction in graminoid cover and an 84 percent reduction in shrub cover, which led to smaller and more isolated patches of shrubs that many avian species depend upon for foraging and nesting. Recent experimental goose exclosures suggest that recovery of degraded habitat is possible, but habitat management at a large scale will require drastic reductions in lesser snow goose numbers.