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Concept: Snow Goose


Costs of parasitism are predicted to be higher with greater parasite intensities and higher inter-parasite competition (diversity). We tested whether greater helminth intensities and diversity were associated with poorer body composition (whole-body fat, protein, mineral and true body mass) in lesser snow geese, Chen caerulescens caerulescens. As part of a larger study on nutritional ecology, 828 wintering or migrating geese were shot between January and May 1983 in 27 different date-locations (samples) during their northward migration through mid-continental North America. A large proportion of overall variation in body composition and parasite communities was among samples, so we analyzed data within each of the 27 samples, controlling for structural body size (the first principal component of 10 body size measurements), sex and the age of geese. There was no compelling evidence that cestodes, trematodes or helminth diversity were associated with variation in body composition but nematodes had several negative associations with fat reserves. However, negative associations between fat reserves and nematodes occurred most often in geese collected between March and May when nematode prevalences and intensities were relatively low. This suggests several possibilities: that the most common nematodes (Heterakis dispar and Trichostrongylus tenuis) were more virulent at this time, that infected individuals had been chronically infected and suffered cumulative nutrient deficits that lasted until late in the spring migration, or that geese became more vulnerable to the effects of parasites at this time of year, possibly because they redirected resources away from immunity toward fat storage in preparation for reproduction.

Concepts: Intestinal parasite, Parasitism, Anser, Chen, Snow Goose


The patterns and mechanisms by which biological diversity is associated with parasite infection risk are important to study because of their potential implications for wildlife population’s conservation and management. Almost all research in this area has focused on host species diversity and has neglected parasite diversity, despite evidence that parasites are important drivers of community structure and ecosystem processes. Here, we assessed whether presence or abundance of each of nine helminth species parasitizing lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens) was associated with indices of parasite diversity (i.e. species richness and Shannon’s Diversity Index). We found repeated instances of focal parasite presence and abundance having significant positive co-variation with diversity measures of other parasites. These results occurred both within individual samples and for combinations of all samples. Whereas host condition and parasite facilitation could be drivers of the patterns we observed, other host- or parasite-level effects, such as age or sex class of host or taxon of parasite, were discounted as explanatory variables. Our findings of recurring and positive associations between focal parasite abundance and diversity underscore the importance of moving beyond pairwise species interactions and contexts, and of including the oft-neglected parasite species diversity in infection-diversity studies.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Ecology, Intestinal parasite, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose


In highly seasonal environments, timing of breeding of organisms is typically set to coincide with the period of highest resource availability. However, breeding phenology may not change at a rate sufficient to keep up with the rapid changes in the environment in the wake of climate change. The lack of synchrony between the phenology of consumers and that of their resources can lead to a phenomenon called trophic mismatch, which may have important consequences on the reproductive success of herbivores. We analysed long-term data (1991-2010) on climate, plant phenology and the reproduction of a long-distance arctic migrant, the greater snow goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica), in order to examine the effects of mismatched reproduction on the growth of young. We found that geese are only partially able to adjust their breeding phenology to compensate for annual changes in the timing of high quality food plants, leading to mismatches of up to 20 days between the two. The peak of nitrogen concentration in plants, an index of their nutritive quality for goslings, occurred earlier in warm springs with an early snow melt. Likewise, mismatch between hatch dates of young and date of peak nitrogen was more important in years with early snow melt. Gosling body mass and structural size at fledging was reduced when trophic mismatch was high, particularly when the difference between date of peak nitrogen concentration and hatching was greater than 9 days. Our results support the hypothesis that trophic mismatch can negatively affect the fitness of arctic herbivores, and that this is likely to be exacerbated by rising global temperatures. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Reproduction, Plant, Ice, Climate, Copyright, Goose, Chen, Snow Goose


In the present study, we investigated the oxidative biotransformation of 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) and 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99) by liver microsomes from wild lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and domesticated Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Formation of hydroxy-metabolites was analyzed using an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry-based method. Incubation of BDE-47 with avian liver microsomes produced sixteen hydroxy-metabolites, eight of which were identified using authentic standards. The major metabolites formed by liver microsomes from individual lesser snow geese were 4-hydroxy-2,2',3,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (4-OH-BDE-42), 3-hydroxy-2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (3-OH-BDE-47), and 4'-hydroxy-2,2',4,5'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (4'-OH-BDE-49). By comparison, 4-OH-BDE-42 and 4'-OH-BDE-49, but not 3-OH-BDE-47, were major metabolites of Japanese quail liver microsomes. Unidentified metabolites included monohydroxy- and dihydroxy-tetrabromodiphenyl ethers. Incubation of BDE-99 with avian liver microsomes produced seventeen hydroxy-metabolites, twelve of which were identified using authentic standards. The major metabolites formed by lesser snow goose liver microsomes were 2,4,5-tribromophenol, 3-OH-BDE-47, 4'-OH-BDE-49, 4-hydroxy-2,2',3,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (4-OH-BDE-90), and 5'-hydroxy-2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (5'-OH-BDE-99). By comparison, the major metabolites produced by liver microsomes from Japanese quail included 6-hydroxy-2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (6-OH-BDE-47) and 2-hydroxy-2',3,4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (2-OH-BDE-123), but not 3-OH-BDE-47. Unidentified metabolites consisted of monohydroxy-pentabromodiphenyl ethers, monohydroxy-tetrabromodiphenyl ethers and dihydroxy-tetrabromodiphenyl ethers. Another difference between the two species was that formation rates of BDE-47 and BDE-99 metabolites were greater with liver microsomes from male than female Japanese quail, but a sex difference was not observed with lesser snow geese.

Concepts: Quail, Coturnix, Japanese Quail, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose


A full understanding of population dynamics depends not only on estimation of mechanistic contributions of recruitment and survival, but also knowledge about the ecological processes that drive each of these vital rates. The process of recruitment in particular may be protracted over several years, and can depend on numerous ecological complexities until sexually mature adulthood is attained. We addressed long term declines (23 breeding seasons, 1992-2014) in the per capita production of young by both Ross’s geese (Chen rossii) and lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) nesting at Karrak Lake in Canada’s central arctic. During this period there was a contemporaneous increase from 0.4 to 1.1 million adults nesting at this colony. We evaluated whether (i) density-dependent nutritional deficiencies of pre-breeding females or (ii) phenological mismatch between peak gosling hatch and peak forage quality, inferred from NDVI on the brood-rearing areas, may have been behind decadal declines in the per capita production of goslings. We found that, in years when pre-breeding females arrived to the nesting grounds with diminished nutrient reserves, the proportional composition of young during brood-rearing was reduced for both species. Furthermore, increased mismatch between peak gosling hatch and peak forage quality contributed additively to further declines in gosling production, in addition to declines caused by delayed nesting with associated subsequent negative effects on clutch size and nest success. The degree of mismatch increased over the course of our study because of advanced vegetation phenology without a corresponding advance in goose nesting phenology. Vegetation phenology was significantly earlier in years with warm surface air temperatures measured in spring (i.e., 25 May - 30 June). We suggest that both increased phenological mismatch and reduced nutritional condition of arriving females were behind declines in population-level recruitment, leading to the recent attenuation in population growth of snow geese. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Per Capita, Goose, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose


Between the early 1900s and the 1990s, the greater snow goose Anser caerulescens atlanticus population grew from 3000 individuals to more than 700 000. Because of concerns about Arctic degradation of natural habitats through overgrazing, a working group recommended the stabilization of the population. Declared overabundant in 1998, special management actions were then implemented in Canada and the United States. Meanwhile, a cost-benefit socioeconomic analysis was performed to set a target population size. Discussions aiming towards attaining a common vision were undertaken with stakeholders at multiple levels. The implemented measures have had varying success; but population size has been generally stable since 1999. To be effective and meet social acceptance, management actions must have a scientific basis, result from a consensus among stakeholders, and include an efficient monitoring programme. In this paper, historical changes in population size and management decisions along with past and current challenges encountered are discussed.

Concepts: Habitat, United States, Management, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose


Increasingly, birds are recognized as important hosts for the ubiquitous parasite Toxoplasma gondii, although little experimental evidence exists to determine which tissues should be tested to maximize the detection probability of T. gondii. Also, Arctic-nesting geese are suspected to be important sources of T. gondii in terrestrial Arctic ecosystems, but the parasite has not previously been reported in the tissues of these geese. Using a domestic goose model, we applied a multi-scale occupancy framework to demonstrate that the probability of detection of T. gondii was highest in the brain (0.689, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.486, 0.839) and the heart (0.809, 95% CI = 0.693, 0.888). Inoculated geese had an estimated T. gondii infection probability of 0.849, (95% CI = 0.643, 0.946), highlighting uncertainty in the system, even under experimental conditions. Guided by these results, we tested the brains and hearts of wild Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii, n = 50) and Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens, n = 50) from Karrak Lake, Nunavut, Canada. We detected 51 suspected positive tissue samples from 33 wild geese using real-time PCR with melt-curve analysis (PCR-MCA). The wild goose prevalence estimates generated by our multi-scale occupancy analysis were higher than the naïve estimates of prevalence, indicating that multiple PCR repetitions on the same organs and testing more than one organ could improve T. gondii detection. Genetic characterization revealed Type III T. gondii alleles in six wild geese and Sarcocystis spp. in 25 samples. Our study demonstrates that Arctic nesting geese are capable of harboring T. gondii in their tissues and could transport the parasite from their southern overwintering grounds into the Arctic region. We demonstrate how a multi-scale occupancy framework can be used in a domestic animal model to guide resource-limited sample collection and tissue analysis in wildlife. Secondly, we confirm the value of traditional occupancy in optimizing T. gondii detection probability in tissue samples.

Concepts: Apicomplexa, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii, Anser, Geese, Sarcocystidae, Chen, Snow Goose


1. Understanding how climate change will affect animal population dynamics remains a major challenge, especially in long-distant migrants exposed to different climatic regimes throughout their annual cycle. 2. We evaluated the effect of temperature throughout the annual cycle on demographic parameters (age-specific survival and recruitment, breeding propensity, and fecundity) of the greater snow goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica L.), an arctic-nesting species. Since this is a hunted species, we used the theory of exploited populations to estimate hunting mortality separately from natural mortality in order to evaluate climatic effects only on the latter form of mortality. 3. Our analysis was based on a 22-year marking study (n = 27,150 females) and included live recaptures at the breeding colony and dead recoveries from hunters. We tested the effect of climatic covariates by applying a procedure that accounts for unexplained environmental variation in the demographic parameter to a multistate Capture-Mark-Recapture recruitment model. 4. Breeding propensity, clutch size and hatching probability all increased with high temperatures on the breeding grounds. First-year survival to natural causes of mortality increased when temperature was high at the end of the summer whereas adult survival was not affected by temperature. On the contrary, accession to reproduction decreased with warmer climatic conditions during the non-breeding season. 5. Survival was strongly negatively related to hunting mortality in adults, as expected, but not in first-year birds, which suggests the possibility of compensation between natural and hunting mortality in the latter group. 6. We show that events occurring both at and away from the breeding ground can affect the demography of migratory birds, either directly or through carry-over effects, and sometimes in opposite ways. This highlights the need to account for the whole life cycle of an animal when attempting to project the response of populations to future climatic changes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Climate, Affect, Climate change, Hunting, Chen, Snow Goose


Quantifying spatial patterns of bird nests and nest fate provides insights into processes influencing a species' distribution. At Cape Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, recent declines in breeding Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese (Branta canadensis interior) has coincided with increasing populations of nesting lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and Ross’s geese (Chen rossii). We conducted a spatial analysis of point patterns using Canada goose nest locations and nest fate, and lesser snow goose nest locations at two study areas in northern Manitoba with different densities and temporal durations of sympatric nesting Canada and lesser snow geese. Specifically, we assessed (1) whether Canada geese exhibited territoriality and at what scale and nest density; and (2) whether spatial patterns of Canada goose nest fate were associated with the density of nesting lesser snow geese as predicted by the protective-association hypothesis. Between 2001 and 2007, our data suggest that Canada geese were territorial at the scale of nearest neighbors, but were aggregated when considering overall density of conspecifics at slightly broader spatial scales. The spatial distribution of nest fates indicated that lesser snow goose nest proximity and density likely influence Canada goose nest fate. Our analyses of spatial point patterns suggested that continued changes in the distribution and abundance of breeding lesser snow geese on the Hudson Bay Lowlands may have impacts on the reproductive performance of Canada geese, and subsequently the spatial distribution of Canada goose nests.

Concepts: Canada, Goose, Branta, Canada Goose, Anser, Geese, Chen, Snow Goose


Brachyspira is associated with diarrhea and colitis in pigs, and control of these pathogens is complicated by their complex ecology. Identification of wildlife reservoirs of Brachyspira requires the discrimination of colonized animals and those simply contaminated through environmental exposure. Lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) were sampled in the Canadian arctic during the summer of 2011, and cloacal swabs were cultured on selective media. Brachyspira isolates were obtained from 15/170 (8.8 %) samples, and 12/15 isolates were similar to isolates previously recovered from pigs, including “Brachyspira hampsonii”, a recently characterized species associated with dysentery-like disease in pigs in North America. A pilot inoculation study with one strongly β-hemolytic B. hampsonii isolate resulted in fecal shedding of the isolate by inoculated pigs for up to 14 days post-inoculation, but no severe clinical disease. Results of this study indicate that lesser snow geese can be colonized by Brachyspira strains that can also colonize pigs. Millions of lesser snow geese (C. caerulescens caerulescens) travel through the major pork-producing areas of Canada and the USA during their annual migration, making them a potential factor in the continental distribution of these bacteria.

Concepts: Bacteria, United States, Canada, North America, Anser, Chen, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose