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The objectives of the project are to assess: 1) the present biodiversity of benthos in Arctic coastal ecosystems (White Sea, southern Barents Sea, Pechora Sea), and indicators for changes caused by disturbances; 2) the adaptations to the Arctic climate for some benthic key-species, the additional influence of disturbance and the sensitivity of the key-species to additional stress from disturbances; 3) the geochemical background of the regions Research activities: Annual missions by ship for sampling water, sediments and macrobenthos. Biodiversity analysis of macrobenthos in sediments in laboratories in Murmansk (MMBI) and Tromsø (Akvaplan-Niva), ecophysiological analyses in laboratories of St. Petersburg (ZISP), Yerseke (NIOO-CEMO) and Pisa (UN), analyses of pollutants in laboratories in Moscow (MSU), Nantes(UN) and Pisa (UP), geochemical analyses of water and sediment in laboratories of Moscow (MSU) and Barcelona (UB). Training of 3 PhD students
This study aims at reconstructing the Barents Sea marine ecosystem before the exploitation by man. This reconstruction will be made by using the existing archival resources on catch statistics from the 17th to 19th centuries in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom, in combination with the present knowledge an animal behaviour and food web structure. Fieldwork is planned in two former hunting areas in Spitsbergen: the Smeerenburgfjord and the Storfjord to study both the structure of the recent marine ecosystem and the composition, size and dating of the recent bird rookeries. This information in combination with the historical data will be used to reconstruct the original ecosystem.
In order to manage populations of migratory geese a better understanding of the mechanisms that determine the size of these populations is needed. The objective of this project is to investigate such mechanisms, within the framework of the entire population of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, that winters in western Europe, and breeds in northern Siberia. The final objective of this project is to help predict future numbers of geese that will winter in western Europe in order to be able to forecast levels of agricultural damage caused by geese. Though hunting is an important factor determining the size of most goose populations, this is not a focal point in this project. Therefore this project focuses on a virtually non-hunted subspecies, viz. the Dark-bellied Brent Goose. Research activities Field work has been carried out in the Pyasina-delta in northern Taymyr, Russia during six consecutive summers from 1990 - 1995 in order to cover two complete lemming cycles. The project focuses the one hand on natural predators (like arctic foxes, Snowy Owls, Glaucous Gulls and Herring Gulls, and even Polar Bears) as a regulatory mechanism for the Dark-bellied Brent Geese, a virtually non-hunted subspecies. Lemming cycles have an important effect on the abundance and behaviour of most of these predators, and measuring lemming density forms an integral part of this study. On the other hand weather conditions, as well as the body condition of the geese themselves are being studied, because those factors are in themselves extremely important predictors of breeding success.
The ecology of the Greenland Right Whale is studied using the historical information from written sources from Dutch archives. The Spitsbergen and Davis Strait populations of the Greenland Right Whale were so heavily hunted that they are almost exterminated now in the northern waters. The whale bones on the beaches of Arctic islands are the archaeological evidences of this exhausting hunt. Very often whaling logbooks, crew statements and lists of catch figures are the only sources of information preserved of this animal in these regions. In this project recent biological information of the animal in the seas around Alaska and historical information of the whale in the North Atlantic and Davis Strait is used to reconstruct the migration, distribution and ecological behaviour of the Greenland Right Whale in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Large numbers of birds breed each summer on the tundra of the northern hemisphere. Two prominent groups in the Arctic bird fauna are waders and waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans). Breeding, which is an energetically costly activity (Drent & Daan 1980), is especially costly in the high Arctic. This is mainly due to low temperatures and high wind speeds in an open landscape (Piersma & Morrison 1994, Wiersma & Piersma 1994). In addition, the summer period is very short. This leaves little time for necessary pre-breeding, breeding and post-breeding activities. Thus, costs are high and available time is short. In order to reach their breeding grounds, arctic birds have to migrate over vast distances between their Arctic breeding sites and temperate or tropical wintering grounds. Migration is also an energetically costly event. This generally high rate of living puts high demands on the birds and we may expect the birds to have evolved a wide range of physiological and behavioural adaptations. Given the inaccessibility of most tundra areas and the necessity of relatively advanced techniques, ecological energetic studies of wader and waterfowl are relatively scarce (with the notable exception of tundra breeding Nearctic geese). With this project we aim at measuring and describing some important energy turnover processes of waders and waterfowl during the short and hectic Arctic summer and to evaluate them in an evolutionary context. We will pay particular attention to the importance of energy and nutrient stores with which the birds arrive at the breeding grounds for egg production, energy turnover of breeding birds in relation to species and microclimate, and the fat deposition and basal metabolism of birds preparing for autumn migration. The project is partly a continuation of work carried out during the Swedish-Russian Tundra Ecology Expedition 1994 (TE-94). Research activities: Capital vs. income breeders Since the favourable season is short for Arctic breeding birds, they are hard pressed to start egg laying immediately after arrival at the breeding grounds. However, upon arrival food availability is often low. It is thought that female birds planning to start a family on the tundra are forced to produce a clutch using, at least to some degree, body reserves accumulated prior to or during their migratory journey. Birds using such a strategy are called capital breeders, in contrast to income breeders' that only use resources obtained during the reproductive period (Drent & Daan 1980). We seek to investigate how commonly the capital breeder strategy is on the Nearctic tundra and how its use varies with: - Species: large species are expected to be more dependent on this - Strategy as their breeding seasons are longer and they are thus more time stressed. - Site: birds at sites where circumstances allow an early start of the breeding season may not be equally dependent on capital breeding than birds using late sites. - Timing: early arriving birds are more pressed to use the capital breeding strategy than late arriving birds, the latter being able to produce eggs from the food available upon arrival. The different potential food sources to birds often have distinct isotopic ratios of C12/C13 and N14/N15 depending on environment and metabolic characteristics. Isotopic ratios of C and N can therefore serve as a kind of fingerprint for these food stuffs. These specific ratios will ultimately also be reflected in the isotopic composition of the consumers tissues; especially with regard to C12/C13 ratios (Hobson & Clark 1992). Distinct differences may therefore also be expected in tissue isotope ratios of newly hatched young from capital and non-capital breeders. Such differences may also appear within nests in case the female has used a mixed strategy. Although in developing tissues these differences may rapidly fade away, isotope differences between young may be fixed in down feathers already present at hatching. Comparing the isotope ratios in down samples within broods with isotope ratios in potential food sources at the breeding ground thus provides a clue to the extend the mother made use of the capital breeding strategy. We will collect down, feathers and blood from all birds trapped. We will concentrate on waders, yet, also waterfowl are of high interest (although the chances to trap birds are smaller). Of highest priority will be down from chicks and blood from parent birds. In likely foraging areas of parents and chicks that we have sampled, we will collect insects and plants and other possible food sources. At the NIOO the samples will be analysed for C12/C13 and N14/N15 ratios using mass spectrometry. The fact that we will visit many different habitats with different climate, foraging conditions and phenology is a major prerequisite for successfully conducting this part of the project. Energy turnover of brooding birds The few available measurements of daily energy expenditure (DEE) of incubating waders in tundra regions, using the doubly labelled water (DLW) method, have shown that breeding in the High Arctic is indeed costly (Piersma & Morrison 1994, Piersma et al. unpublished data from Siberia). The high cost stems from the combined effects of low temperatures and high wind speeds in an open landscape, but may also be affected by the birds own intense foraging activities. However, the measurements that have become available up till now do not cover the whole "climate space" that arctic breeding waders encounter, due to the bias in study sites and the particularities of weather conditions during the few studies that have been carried out. We would like to extend the series of measurements using DLW in incubating waders of more species than hitherto available and under more environmental conditions. Field measurements of DEE involve initial capture of a bird on the nest, loading it with DLW and recapturing the bird after a certain period of time, usually 24-48 hours. There is room for improvement over the earlier studies in monitoring the loaded birds activity budget (using transponders, small radiotags and/or nest/egg temperature recorders) and in assaying the birds physiological status. Apart from mass and size variable, birds could probably be assayed for the thickness of the breast muscle (a heat generating part of the body) and the size of the stomach (as an indicator of the digestive apparatus) using ultrasound. These techniques are under development at NIOZ and the University of Groningen at the moment. Equally, body composition in terms of fat and lean components could be estimated from dilution factors after quantitative DLW injections. It is crucial to simultaneously measure the meteorological variables air temperature, wind speed and global solar radiation, and hence a weather station has to be brought to the study sites to this effect. Fat deposition and basal metabolism of birds preparing for autumn migration Waders need high-performing bodies to cope with their energetically high rate of living. This is reflected in their basal metabolic rate (BMR). The BMR of an animal is the energy it spends at rest (i.e., at night for day-active animals), in thermoneutral conditions, without processing food, and when it is not involved in productive activities like reproduction, moult or growth. The BMR of a bird may be compared with the fuel consumption of a car engine that is running idle. A Formula-One car, that operates at an incredibly high rate also has a high cost of running idle. A standard car with a less impressive engine takes less energy to keep running. As the cost of running idle reflects the potential power of an engine, the BMR reflects the potential rate of work of an animal body. Waders have comparatively high BMR compared to other non-passerine birds (Kersten & Piersma 1987). Moreover, studies of captive Knots have shown that they vary their BMR over the year (Piersma et al. 1995). In addition, waders trapped during the first part of their autumn migration in Arctic Eurasia were found to have higher BMR than their conspecifics at tropical wintering grounds in Africa (Kersten et al. in press, Lindström in press a). This all suggests that waders can adjust the size of their engine which makes sense, since the best solution would be to have a strong engine when circumstances so demand, and a smaller engine during more relaxed parts of the year (for example at wintering grounds in Africa; Klaassen et al. 1990). Although we are actually most interested in the long-term maximum rate of energy expenditure as a measure of adaptations to a high rate of living, this is very difficult to measure, and especially so in a comparable way. Instead, the BMR, which is supposed to reflect the maximum energy turnover potential, is fairly easy to measure, and figures from different investigations can be compared. During TE-94, 24 juvenile waders of five different species were measured for their BMR in a respirometer (Lindström in press a). We want to continue this work by including birds of new species, and of the same species but from another breeding area. Juvenile birds will be caught during the first parts of the autumn migration (mainly August) in portable and walk-in traps. They are then brought to the ship where they will be measured in the respirometer. The BMR values will be compared to those obtained during TE-94 and with data from the migration and the wintering grounds in America and Europe to look for inter- and intra-specific patterns. Whereas it is fairly well known that many (most ?) wader species put on huge energy reserves prior to migration to the Arctic, almost nothing is known about the size of reserves carried by waders prior to departure from the Arctic. This is necessary to know in order to understand the migration strategies adopted (Alerstam & Lindström 1990) and when analysing migration routes. During TE-94 almost 300 juvenile waders were trapped during August, most of them being Little Stints Calidris minuta. It was revealed that also when migrating from the Arctic, substantial energy reserves were put on (Lindström in press b). We now want to collect corresponding data from the Nearctic. Whereas much is known about the size of energy reserves of migration waders further south in America (for example, McNeil & Cadieux 1972, Thompson 1974, Johnson et al. 1989, Driedzic et al. 1993), we know of no such data from the Nearctic region.
International cooperative research program (field work in 1992-1996) on Bewick's Swans, on ecological limitations in the annual cycle, mainly during periods of high energy expenditure, i.e. breeding and migration. Relates to feeding ecology (both terrestrial and aquatic (pondweed tubers) vegetation, annual variation in climatic conditions. Aims at: 1. understanding limiting factors for population size (production of young and survival) 2. understanding migratory behaviour in this large species 3. protecting crucial areas for breeding, moulting and migrating for this vulnerable swan population Research activities: - Field expeditions (2-5 months) to the Arctic, covering the entire breeding season, including moult and pre-migratory fattening - Running a ringing project with over 1,000 individually marked birds - Data analysis and publications
Determining ecological constraints for Barnacle Geese during the Arctic summer to understand individual breeding success. Geese are individually marked, measured and observed over their lifetime in order to study individual reproductive strategies and their consequences. Also the interaction between the geese and their food plants is studied in detail. Research activities Every year, during summer, fieldwork in Ny Ålesund, every two years counting geese along Norden-skioldkysten. Both areas are located on Spitsbergen.
In the seventeent and eighteenth centuries intensive European whaling and walrus hunting took place in the waters around Spitsbergen, with many stations on the coast of the islands. The hunt was carried out in areas along the edge of pack ice and is therefore very sensitive to changes in the ice situation and climate. When, around 1650, climate and ice distribution changed, whales moved to the north. The whaling stations in the south of Spitsbergen were abandoned when stations in the north were still functioning. When, later, the ice situation deteriorated in the north as well, the stations were abandoned there too. Shore whaling changed into pelagic whaling. Because of these whaling and walrus hunting activities two very numerous large mammals were largely depleted and almost disappeared from the Spitsbergen waters. The pelagically feeding Greenland Right Whale and the bentically feeding walrus, whose initial stocks are estimated at 46,000 Greenland Right Whales and 25,000 walrus, were eliminated. This elimination has caused a major shift in the foodweb. The plankton feeding seabirds and polar cod strongly increased because of the elimination of the Greenland Right Whale, and the eider ducks and bearded seals increased because of the decrease of the number of walruses. This development has led to the enormous amount of seabird rookeries on the West coast of Spitsbergen.
The ecology and breeding success of the Longtailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus) and the Brown skua (Catheracta lonnbergi) is studied in a longterm programme. The difference in allometric growth between the different species and populations of skuas is interesting when it is related to the ecology and distribution history of these species and populations. Skuas have a dynamic distribution history and an opportunistic way of living. Populations of the same species in different localities have often a different ecology. Therefore, studies on different populations of the same species are carried out.
The ecology and breeding success of the Long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus) and the Brown skua (Catheracta lonnbergi) is studied in a longterm programme. The difference in allometric growth between the different species and populations of skuas is interesting when it is related to the ecology and distribution history of these species and populations. Skuas have a dynamic distribution history and an opportunistic way of living. Populations of the same species in different localities have often a different ecology. Therefore, studies on different populations of the same species are carried out.