Netherlands Polar Data Center

Project - A sentinel for efficient flyway conservation: sanderlings can inform us about the downstream effects of changing High Arctic environments


Long-distance migratory shorebirds that breed on Arctic tundra connect the Polar region with the rest of the world. Such birds tend to be of conservation concern because of (1) the predicted climate changes in Arctic environments and (2) the already ongoing widespread population declines. So far, we have no way to tell the importance of demographic problems in the Arctic (lower reproduction) relative to happenings in the rest of the flyway. Here the sanderling flyway study system developed from The Netherlands over the last decade, comes to the 'rescue' for conservationists and policy-makers. We propose to study annual and seasonal survival and the timing of migration of a High Arctic shorebird species, sanderling Calidris alba, to essay the bottlenecks in their population biology. We will do so using 53,400 observations of 5,550 sanderlings that were individually marked at seven sites along the East Atlantic flyway between Greenland and Ghana in mark-recapture analyses of seasonal and annual survival of individuals wintering at different distances to the Greenlandic breeding grounds. We will use observations of colour-ringed individuals during the migration periods, stable isotope analyses and geolocators to search for intra-specific differences in timing of migration dependent on annual migration distance. This study will indicate whether migration is a period of increased mortality (directly or via carry-over effects), and whether a declining reproductive success is caused by late arrivals in the Greenlandic breeding grounds, where strong advancements of the peak in food resources are now taking place.

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