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Adaptive harvest management for the Svalbard population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)

January 1, 2017

This document describes progress to date on the development of an adaptive harvest-management strategy for maintaining the Svalbard population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) near their target level (60,000) by providing for sustainable harvests in Norway and Denmark. Specifically, this report provides an assessment of the most recent monitoring information and its implications for the harvest management strategy.

The development of an adaptive harvest management (AHM) strategy requires specification of four elements: (a) a set of alternative population models, which bound the uncertainty about effects of harvest and other relevant environmental factors; (b) a set of probabilities (or weights) describing the relative credibility of the alternative models, which are updated each year based on a comparison of model predictions and monitoring information; (c) a set of alternative harvest quotas from which to choose; and (d) a management objective function, by which alternative harvest strategies can be evaluated and a mathematically optimal strategy identified.

By combining varying hypotheses about survival and reproduction, a suite of nine models were developed. Those models represent a wide range of possibilities concerning the extent to which demographic rates are density dependent, and the extent to which spring temperatures influence survival and reproduction. Five of the models incorporate density-dependent mechanisms that would maintain the population near a carrying capacity (i.e., in the absence of harvest) of 65,000 – 129,000 depending on the specific model. The remaining four models are density independent and predict an exponentially growing population even with moderate levels of harvest.

The most current set of monitoring information was used to update model weights for the period 1991 – 2016. Current model weights suggest little evidence for density-dependent survival and reproduction. These results suggest that the pink-footed goose population may have recently experienced a release from density-dependent mechanisms, corresponding to the period of most rapid growth in population size. There is equivocal evidence for the effect of May temperature days in Svalbard (number of days with temperatures above freezing) on survival and reproduction.

Beginning with the 2016 hunting season, harvest quotas are chosen on an annual basis rather than every three years because of the potential to better meet management objectives. The optimal harvest strategy, however, remains “knife-edged,” meaning that small changes in resource status can precipitate large changes in the annual harvest quota. This potential outcome is likely to be of concern to hunters, and we are investigating ways in which large swings in harvest quotas might be dampened. Based on updated model probabilities, the recent observations of record-high population size (88,000), the aboveaverage proportion of the population comprised of one-year-old birds (0.196), and temperature days in Svalbard (4), the suggested harvest quota for the 2017 hunting season is 36,000. Last year the quota was 25,000, yet a harvest of only 16,143 was realized. We are increasingly concerned that with the return of average spring temperatures in Svalbard, the population will continue to grow beyond managers’ ability to control it, as is the case with many goose populations in Europe and North America.

Publication Year 2017
Title Adaptive harvest management for the Svalbard population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Series Title EGMP Technical Report
Series Number 5
Index ID 70199144
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center