Trump administration, climate denialism and the Arctic

This video from the USA says about itself:

Tillerson Agrees Climate Change Is Hurting The Arctic, Contradicting Trump Admin Policies

13 May 2017

The Secretary of State stopped short of linking climate change to human activity, when he signed the Fairbanks Document this week in Alaska. But Janet Redmond of Oil Change International says the Trump administration is still denying the urgency of the warming planet.

Will Arctic barnacle geese survive climate change?

This video says about itself:

Base-jumping barnacle goose – Life Story: Episode 1 Preview – BBC One

Within the first few hours after hatching a Barnacle gosling must make a giant leap from its clifftop nest falling over 400ft in order to reach the ground below.

I have been privileged to see beautiful barnacle geese in Spitsbergen.

From the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW):

Can barnacle geese predict the climate?

Unpredictable warming spells ‘problems’ for Arctic-breeding migratory birds

Summary: The breeding grounds of Arctic migratory birds such as the barnacle goose are changing rapidly due to accelerated warming in the polar regions. They won’t be able to keep up with this climate change unless they can somehow anticipate it. A research team employed computer models to assess the future of the geese and their young.

The breeding grounds of Arctic migratory birds such as the barnacle goose are changing rapidly due to accelerated warming in the polar regions. They won’t be able to keep up with this climate change unless they can somehow anticipate it. A research team from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) employed computer models to assess the future of the geese and their young. Results are being published online by the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

It’s the time of year when barnacle geese and many other migratory birds prepare to depart for their breeding grounds above the Arctic Circle. From their wintering grounds in the Netherlands, the geese fly all the way up to the Barentsz Sea in northern Russia, where they should arrive just as the snow has melted. But in the polar regions, the climate is warming much more rapidly than in more temperate areas like the Netherlands — a phenomenon known as ‘Arctic amplification‘.

It’s hard enough for humans to get to grips with the accelerated warming, let alone for barnacle geese, as an earlier NIOO-led study showed. After all, how can they tell from their wintering grounds if the snow has begun to melt thousands of kilometres away? So is it possible for the barnacle geese to advance their spring migration nonetheless, to predict climate change?

First study, fewer young

Ecologist Thomas Lameris and his fellow researchers from NIOO, and also the Swiss Ornithological Institute among other institutions, have tried to find the answer. “This is the first study that tests if migratory birds are in any way able to adjust their timing to the accelerated warming in the polar regions. We used a model to show that the availability of enough edible grass to build up reserves for their journey is not a problem for the barnacle geese. It’s the unpredictability of the climatic changes in their breeding grounds that spells trouble for them.”

If the geese continue to mistime their arrival, their reproductive success will be reduced. Lameris: “They miss their optimal breeding window and the peak in local food abundance, so fewer goslings will survive.” Some compensation for this comes from the fact that as well as starting earlier, the breeding season is becoming longer. This gives the goslings more time to grow. But that’s not enough.

To establish the barnacle geese’s potential for anticipating climate change, the researchers built a model that tracks individual geese as they fly to their breeding grounds in northern Russia and make stopovers along the route. “In the model, the geese have to make a choice each day: stay in their present location and continue to feed, or fly to the next stopover.” The researchers tested the model for various gradations of climatic warming.

Smarter migration strategy?

The barnacle goose is an ideal ‘model species’ for studying the effects of climate changes, because researchers have been able to study this animal for decades. But it’s not just about a single species. Lameris: “Our results are probably valid for many more species of Arctic-breeding migratory birds, and certainly for other geese such as the white-fronted and the brent goose.”

On the whole, geese are clever birds. Goslings learn the migration route from their parents, including the best places to stop over and build up fat reserves. “So if they do change the timing of their arrival, it would be easy to pass that on to the next generation,” Lameris argues hopefully. “The main question is whether geese and other migratory birds can adapt as fast as the climate changes, to keep up.”

Climate change improves the breeding chances of migratory geese in the Arctic — but puts mother geese at more risk of death, according to a new study: here.

Two-barred crossbill video

This is a two-barred crossbill video; made in the Netherlands, where these Arctic birds are rare.

Ross’s gull video

This is a Ross’s gull video. This Arctic bird is a rare vagrant in western Europe.

Pectoral sandpipers’ long journeys

This video says about itself:

7 February 2017

To follow the movements of male pectoral sandpipers, scientists tagged the birds with satellite transmitters in the spring of 2012 (red) and 2014 (blue). Surprisingly, most male pectoral sandpipers visited multiple breeding sites all across the Arctic, rather than remaining at a first-stop breeding ground in Barrow, Alaska (bottom, center). Red diamonds mark visited sites and fade when the birds move on or the transmitters stop working. Green areas indicate the birds’ breeding range.

Video credit: B. Kempenaers and M. Valcu/Nature 2017.

I remember seeing a male pectoral sandpiper during the mating season, not in North America, but in far away Svalbard. Unfortunately, as far as I know, he did not find a mate there.

From Science News:

Pectoral sandpipers go the distance, and then some

Males visit multiple breeding grounds all across the Arctic

By Emily DeMarco

7:00am, February 7, 2017

After flying more than 10,000 kilometers from South America to the Arctic, male pectoral sandpipers should be ready to rest their weary wings. But once the compact shorebirds arrive at a breeding ground in Barrow, Alaska, each spring, most keep going — an average of about 3,000 extra kilometers.

Scientists thought males, which mate with multiple females, stayed put at specific sites around the Arctic to breed. Instead, in a study of 120 male pectoral sandpipers in Barrow, most flitted all across the region looking for females. One bird flew a whopping 13,045 kilometers more after arriving, researchers report online January 9 in Nature.

“We had no clue that they range over such a wide area,” says study coauthor Bart Kempenaers, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. To track the birds, the researchers placed satellite transmitters on 60 males in 2012 and another 60 in 2014.

“It doesn’t seem to be very tough for them to do these flights,” Kempenaers says. Competition for a mate, however, is cutthroat. In Barrow, just a few males sire the majority of offspring each year. The new work shows males visited as many as 24 potential breeding sites over four weeks, perhaps to boost their chances of reproducing.

Some had better stamina than luck. Kempenaers told of one male’s 2,000-kilometer Arctic odyssey: Once the bird reached Barrow, it flew north over the Arctic Ocean before turning around and landing just 300 kilometers from where it started. “There’s nothing northwards. There is only the [North] Pole, no land,” he says.

Brünnich’s guillemot video

This video is about the Brünnich’s guillemot. This video was made in the Netherlands, where this Arctic bird is a rare vagrant. I was privileged to see them in Spitsbergen.

Yellow-billed loon on video

This yellow-billed loon video is from the Netherlands; where this Arctic bird species has been seen only a few dozen times.