Land use change and the migration geography of Greater White-fronted geese in European Russia

Mikhail Grishchenko*, Herbert H.T. Prins, Ronald C. Ydenberg, Michael E. Schaepman, Willem F. de Boer, Henrik J. de Knegt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Large areas of agricultural land have been abandoned in European Russia since 1991, triggering succession toward more wooded landscapes, especially in northern regions where conditions for agriculture are more challenging. We hypothesize that this process has contributed to a southward shift by migratory Atlantic Greater White-fronted geese, as stopover sites in northern Russia became progressively less suitable. To test this hypothesis, we located stopover sites from information contained in 2976 ring recoveries and sightings of neck-collared geese. These records were divided into three time periods, chosen to reflect major changes in the economy and land use of European Russia: 1960–1990, 1991–2000, and 2001–2013. We used a kernel density estimator grid to delineate areas surrounding 300 putative stopover sites, and statistically evaluated the effects of latitude, distance to nearest waterbody, settlement, and period on stopover site usage by geese. Our results show that over the three periods, usage of the stopover sites has shifted southward, indicating that Greater White-fronted geese have shifted their migration pathway, with the greatest shift in the most recent period. This shift was confirmed by a highly significant squared latitude term and significant interaction term between periods. The nearest settlements showed no significant effect on stopover site usage while the nearest waterbody term was negative, suggesting higher waterbody densities contributed to higher densities of stopover sites. We attribute the shift to the successional reforestation of the Russian landscape that has followed widespread land abandonment, especially that following the break-up of the former USSR.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02754
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2019


  • agriculture
  • geese migration
  • land use change
  • political ecology
  • Russia
  • stopover sites

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