High-Arctic Greenland breeding wader populations remained relatively unchanged for 25 years, but more frequent severe spring events lurk in the future


6 – 13

1 April 22

Hans Meltofte


Hans Meltofte
Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University, PO Box 358, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark


Public Files

Since 1996, monitoring at Zackenberg Research Station in central NE Greenland has followed the ups and downs in the local high-Arctic environment, including the bird populations in a 15.8 km2 study area. The 25 years of data show few unidirectional changes in the six wader species breeding regularly in the area, neither regarding population trends nor breeding phenology. Similarly, median initiation of egg-laying did not change in three well-covered wader species. Interannual variability in both breeding phenology and, to some extent, wader population numbers was mainly related to spring snow cover and the concomitant variability in food availability and with increasing variability in several parameters during the study. Hatching success was much lower in the later part of the study period, but this may be biased by researcher activities at nests. The summer climate of high-Arctic Greenland is generally benign with a longer period of food availability than at sites in the Siberian and Canadian high-Arctic, but late snow clearance and severe weather events had pronounced impacts in a few years both on breeding activities and apparently on adult survival. Such events most often appear not to be of widespread character due to the mountainous landscape with pronounced S-N and E-W gradients in spring snow cover and secondary productivity in high-Arctic Greenland. This means that most often there will be favourable conditions in one area or another, so that wader populations in high-Arctic Greenland and north-easternmost Canada do not fluctuate as much as wader populations in Arctic Siberia and North America. However, increased frequency of severe events may result in deteriorating breeding conditions in the future.


Forum provides a platform for contributions from the wider community reporting particular aspects of wader/shorebird ecology and conservation, as well as previously unknown topics. These articles are subject to editor-only review. If you are interested in contributing to Forum, please contact the Editors-in-Chief at: