CR 38:237-248 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/cr00790

Seasonal weather effects on the common eider, a subarctic capital breeder, in Iceland over 55 years

Jón Einar Jónsson1,*, Arnthor Gardarsson2, Jennifer A. Gill3, Aevar Petersen4, Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson1

1University of Iceland, Snæfellsnes Research Centre, Hafnargata 3, 340 Stykkishólmur, Iceland
2Institute of Biology, University of Iceland, Sturlugata 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
3School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ, UK
4Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Hlemmur 3, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland

ABSTRACT: Changes in bird populations and their phenology (i.e. timing of nesting and migration) are increasingly linked to global climatic changes, particularly at temperate and Arctic latitudes. These patterns arise from local- and regional-scale effects of weather on demography but long-term time-series data necessary to explore these relationships are rarely available. Colonies of the common eider Somateria mollissima are often monitored annually for nest-down harvesting. We use long-term data from 2 nesting colonies in northwest Iceland (Bíldsey, Breiðafjörður: 29 yr and Lækur, Dýrafjörður: 55 yr) to examine the effects of weather conditions in each season on breeding numbers, arrival dates and clutch sizes. Numbers of nests in Bíldsey increased following warm, wet winters and first nests were produced later following windy and wet winters at Lækur. In spring, windy conditions tended to be followed by earlier female arrivals at Bíldsey. Warm, wet springs were positively correlated with larger clutch sizes at Lækur, and clutch sizes at Lækur decreased following especially wet and warm autumns. The overall population trends vary among sites and are likely to be influenced by both climatic and management conditions. These findings indicate that the effects of global climatic changes will depend on the details of changes in local weather conditions within each season. The strong effects on nesting dates and clutch sizes suggest that accumulation of body reserves, which sustain females during incubation and into brood rearing, is a key mechanism that could determine how altered distribution and frequencies of depressions within each season will affect future numbers of this species.


KEY WORDS: Climate · Phenology · Temperature · Winter harshness · Breeding · Arctic · Waterfowl · Capital breeder


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Cite this article as: Jónsson JE, Gardarsson A, Gill JA, Petersen A, Gunnarsson TG (2009) Seasonal weather effects on the common eider, a subarctic capital breeder, in Iceland over 55 years. Clim Res 38:237-248

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