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Rapid growth of the Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus wintering population in Tibet, China: 1991–2017

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2021

MARY ANNE BISHOP*
Affiliation:
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI, USA. Prince William Sound Science Center, Cordova, AK, USA.
DONGPING LIU*
Affiliation:
Key Laboratory of Forest Protection of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, Research Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, PRC.
GUOGANG ZHANG*
Affiliation:
Key Laboratory of Forest Protection of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, Research Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, PRC.
DROLMA TSAMCHU
Affiliation:
Tibet Plateau Institute of Biology, Lhasa, Tibet, PRC.
LE YANG
Affiliation:
Tibet Plateau Institute of Biology, Lhasa, Tibet, PRC. present address: Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, PRC.
FAWEN QIAN
Affiliation:
Key Laboratory of Forest Protection of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, Research Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, PRC.
FENGSHAN LI
Affiliation:
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI, USA.
*
*Authors for correspondence; emails: mbishop@pwssc.org; dpliu@caf.ac.cn; zm7672@126.com
*Authors for correspondence; emails: mbishop@pwssc.org; dpliu@caf.ac.cn; zm7672@126.com
*Authors for correspondence; emails: mbishop@pwssc.org; dpliu@caf.ac.cn; zm7672@126.com

Summary

Four of China’s six wintering populations of “grey” geese Anser spp. declined during the last decade. In contrast, the Bar-headed Goose A. indicus wintering population in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region more than doubled. During six surveys in Tibet over a 27-year period (1991/92 to 2017/18 winters) we documented an annual growth rate of 6.8% in the Bar-headed Goose population – an increase from approximately 10,100 to 68,100 birds. We propose that in addition to the cessation of hunting, the population growth of Bar-headed Goose is being driven by changes in agricultural land use patterns in Tibet, the establishment of protected areas on the wintering and breeding grounds, and the impacts of climate change across the Tibetan Plateau. Consistent with this hypothesis, the sown area of winter wheat in Tibet has increased and geese have shifted from primarily feeding in crop stubble to planted winter wheat fields. We also found that the most rapid population growth coincided with a 1998 climate regime shift across the Tibetan Plateau resulting in warmer temperatures, an increase in net precipitation, the appearance of new lakes and changes in the water levels and surface area of historical lakes. We suggest that warmer temperatures and high-quality forage on the south-central Tibet wintering grounds may be enhancing over-winter survival, while on the breeding grounds the expansion of lakes and wet meadows is augmenting breeding and brood-rearing habitat.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© International Crane Foundation and Prince William Sound Science Center, National Bird Banding Center and the Tibet Plateau Institute of Biology 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of BirdLife International

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