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Research article2017Peer reviewed

Habitat associations and habitat change: seeking explanation for population decline in breeding Eurasian wigeon Anas penelope

Poysa, Hannu; Elmberg, Johan; Gunnarsson, Gunnar; Holopainen, Sari; Nummi, Petri; Sjoberg, Kjell


We explored whether the recent large-scale population decline of Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope) in Europe may be linked to long-term vegetation changes in their boreal breeding wetlands. First, we assessed the importance of Equisetum, Phragmites, and Carex stands in lake selection by pairs and in foraging habitat selection by broods. Second, in 2013-2014 we revisited 58 lakes in Sweden and Finland studied in 1990-1991, to examine if there had been any long-term change in the abundance of habitat types preferred by wigeon. Finally, using continuous long-term data on breeding numbers of wigeon in 18 of the lakes studied in 1990-1991, we examined if wigeon numbers had changed at lakes where the habitat also had changed. We found that lake occupation of nesting wigeon pairs and foraging habitat use of broods were associated with the extent of Equisetum stands. The presence and abundance of this preferred habitat declined dramatically from 1990-1991 to 2013-2014 in the lakes from which the presence-absence data of wigeon emanate. Breeding numbers of wigeon showed a long-term declining trend in lakes where Equisetum has decreased. Our results imply that the recent population decline of wigeon in Europe may be linked to decrease of Equisetum habitat.


Anas penelope; Breeding; Equisetum fluviatile; Habitat change; Herbivory

Published in

2017, Volume: 785, number: 1, pages: 207-217
Publisher: SPRINGER