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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Habitat use in ducks breeding in boreal freshwater wetlands: a review

Holopainen, Sari; Arzel, Céline; Dessborn, Lisa; Elmberg, Johan; Gunnarsson, Gunnar; Nummi, Petri; Pöysä, Hannu; Sjöberg, Kjell


Breeding habitats strongly influence duck reproduction and survival. The boreal biome harbours a large share of the world's wetlands, which are important breeding sites for several duck species. Based on 98 studies in the peer-reviewed literature, we here synthesize and evaluate which habitat characteristics affect habitat use and reproduction of ducks breeding in boreal freshwater wetlands with respect to (1) species and guild (dabbling, diving and piscivorous ducks) and (2) breeding cycle stage (settling by pairs, nesting and brood rearing). We consider the following aspects related to habitat: wetland morphology and spatial aggregation, water characteristics, habitat structure and vegetation, and biotic interactions. Most of the peer-reviewed studies of duck habitat use in boreal wetlands are from North America and Fennoscandia, while nearly half of the boreal area lacks such studies. Few species dominate research thus far while several others have not been studied at all. Nest site use and success are mainly related to predator avoidance. Food resources and habitat structure are the key characteristics affecting habitat use by duck pairs and broods as well as breeding success, although there are differences between duck guilds. Among the commonly studied variables, there is little evidence that water characteristics affect duck habitat use or survival. The most notable knowledge gaps are found in the effects of anthropogenic activities on habitat use and breeding success of ducks. Because boreal breeding environments are increasingly affected by human activities, we underline the need for future studies combining climate variation with natural and anthropogenic disturbances.


Anatidae; Duckling; Limitation; Management; Regulation; Waterfowl

Published in

European Journal of Wildlife Research
2015, volume: 61, number: 3, pages: 339-363

Authors' information

Holopainen, Sari
University of Helsinki
Arzel, Céline
University of Turku
Dessborn, Lisa
Kristianstad University
Elmberg, Johan
Kristianstad University
Gunnarsson, Gunnar
Kristianstad University
Nummi, Petri
University of Helsinki
Pöysä, Hannu
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

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