Arctic geese tune migration to a warming climate but still suffer from a phenological mismatch

T.K. Lameris (Corresponding author), H.P. van der Jeugd, G. Eichhorn, A.M. Dokter, Willem Bouten, M.P. Boom, K.E. Litvin, Bruno J. Ens, B.A. Nolet

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)
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Climate warming challenges animals to advance their timing of reproduction [1], but many animals appear to be unable to advance at the same rate as their food species [2, 3]. As a result, mismatches can arise between the moment of largest food requirements for their offspring and peak food availability [4, 5, 6], with important fitness consequences [7]. For long-distance migrants, adjustment of phenology to climate warming may be hampered by their inability to predict the optimal timing of arrival at the breeding grounds from their wintering grounds [8]. Arrival can be advanced if birds accelerate migration by reducing time on stopover sites [9, 10], but a recent study suggests that most long-distance migrants are on too tight a schedule to do so [11]. This may be different for capital-breeding migrants, which use stopovers not only to fuel migration but also to acquire body stores needed for reproduction [12, 13, 14]. By combining multiple years of tracking and reproduction data, we show that a long-distance migratory bird (the barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis) accelerates its 3,000 km spring migration to advance arrival on its rapidly warming Arctic breeding grounds. As egg laying has advanced much less than arrival, they still encounter a phenological mismatch that reduces offspring survival. A shift toward using more local resources for reproduction suggests that geese first need to refuel body stores at the breeding grounds after accelerated migration. Although flexibility in body store use allows migrants to accelerate migration, this cannot solve the time constraint they are facing under climate warming.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4
Pages (from-to)2467-2473
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number15
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • international

Research theme

  • Global environmental change


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