Julia Loshchagina is a scientific researcher at the Laboratory of Biogeography at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. She has been working with Arctic birds since 2013. Currently, she is part of a team studying bird populations on Kolguev Island in the European Russian Arctic. Since 2006, the research team has been monitoring the avifauna of Kolguev and conducted detailed studies on geese, Long-tailed ducks and waders.
Kolguev Island in the south-eastern Barents Sea is one of the main nesting sites for geese in the European Russian Arctic. About 30% of the populations of three goose species breeding in the Russian Arctic and wintering in Europe nest here. The exceptionally high abundance of geese is the result of a relatively stable predation pressure due to the complete absence of rodents.
Russian Barnacle goose population has increased dramatically over the past 35 years. On Kolguev, the number of breeding Barnacle geese has also increased from single nests in the 1980s to the most numerous goose species of the island. Starting nesting on sandbars of southern Kolguev, Barnacle geese have now expanded throughout the island, occupying a wide variety of nesting habitats not previously used by this species. As a result, Barnacle geese may compete with White-fronted geese, which used to be the most numerous goose species on the island, since they can use the same habitats for nesting, rearing goslings and moulting.
Our study of breeding density and nesting success of the species in different parts of the island showed that an increase in the number of Barnacle geese affects White-fronted geese. Spatial analysis of the nest locations of the two species nesting on the same study plots showed that White-fronted geese preferred to nest more distant from Barnacle goose nests than randomly. This corroborates the hypothesis that the dispersal of Barnacle goose throughout the island may lead to a redistribution of White-fronted goose nests.
The high breeding density of many bird species on Kolguev Island highlights a high international conservation value of the island. Long-term monitoring of Kolguev ecosystems has revealed a transformation of the island ecosystem, reflecting the impact of climate change on bird populations in lemming-free ecosystem, which is a rarity in the Arctic.