this project is financially supported by the DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Nachwuchsförderung, STA631/3-1)
in close co-operation with: Institute for Avian Research, Vogelwarte Helgoland, Wilhelmshaven (Prof. Dr. Franz Bairlein)
Only recently, research on flight energetics and costs of long-distance migration in waterfowl has revealed that migrating geese and swans ultimately depend on “stepping stones” of suitable foraging habitats along the migration route to meet their energy demands for long-distance flight. Migratory geese commute between coastal ecosystems of the temperate and arctic zone during their annual cycle. The timing of spring migratory movements hinges upon seasonal changes in availability and profitability of plant resources along the flyway, formalised as the ‘Green Wave Hypothesis’.
The western Palaearctic continental flyway that connects the tundra and taiga belts of Russia with north-west Europe is the major migratory avenue for an estimated 9.3 million herbivorous water birds (swans, geese and ducks). Current agricultural practices together with protection measures subsidize the carrying capacity of winter habitats of the birds.
For our research, we use the barnacle goose as a flagship species. Barnacle geese use coastal salt marshes and adjacent agricultural pastures in the Dutch, German and Danish Wadden Sea during spring fattening, accumulating energy reserves essential for successful migration and subsequent reproduction at arctic breeding sites. Traditionally breeding at arctic sites, the barnacle goose population recently showed a spectacular expansion of the breeding range towards temperate regions.