Adaptive Harvest Management of European Geese

Science Center Objects

Pink-footed geese in Svalbard are a highly valued resource, but their increasing population causes conflicts with agricultural needs. USGS is devloping population models to help inform management of optimal harvest strategies. 

Svalbard population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)

Svalbard population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus

The Science Issue and Relevance: As in North America, many goose populations in western Europe have increased dramatically during recent decades. The Svalbard population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) is a good example, increasing from about 10,000 individuals in the early 1960s to roughly 80,000 today. Although these geese are a highly valued resource, the growing numbers of geese are causing agricultural conflicts in wintering and staging areas. Conservationists are also concerned that large numbers of geese may have deleterious impacts on the fragile tundra habitats used during the breeding season. Thus, there is the need for an internationally coordinated effort to manage the numbers of geese in a way that is consistent with recreational, economic, and conservation goals. The North American model of Adaptive Harvest Management has been suggested as a tool to help integrate social values and management capabilities with science-based predictions of population response.

Methods for Addressing the Issue: Informed management of wildlife harvests depends on the ability of a manager to take periodic actions, which are conditioned both on the current state of the resource and on anticipated future resource conditions. Optimal solutions to these “sequential-decision problems” can be calculated, provided there are clearly articulated management objectives, a set of alternative management actions, one or more models of resource dynamics, and a resource-monitoring program. This project will initially focus on the development of goose population models that can be used to inform management. The resulting model(s) will be used in combination with management objectives specified by the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement to derive optimal harvest strategies. Optimal harvest strategies can account for several sources and degrees of uncertainty, including uncertainty as to the most appropriate model of population dynamics. Using an iterative process of comparing model predictions with observations from the monitoring program, the most appropriate model can be identified. Thus, harvest strategies can “evolve” over time in response to what is learned. 

Future Steps: Implementation of an adaptive-management strategy for pink-footed geese began in autumn of 2013. Current work is focused on expanding the application of adaptive management to taiga bean geese (Anser fabalis fabalis), barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), and graylag geese (Anser anser).

Additional Products:

Johnson, F.A. and J. Madsen. 2015. Adaptive Harvest Management for the Svalbard Population of Pink-footed Geese. 2015 Progress Summary. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 24 pp. Technical Report from DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy No. 64.