Disturbance, recovery and tundra vegetation change


Svalbards miljøvernfond har gitt støtte til forskning på vegetasjonsendringer


This study has shown that 13 years after (simulated) goose disturbance to tundra vegetation, such disturbances remain clearly visible in drier habitats (Dryas ridge and Cassiope communities). However, in wetter vegetation types (Dupontia and other marsh communities) these disturbances were no longer detectable. In mesic (Wet moss tundra) and Dupontia communities, re-grubbing of experimental plots by geese kept some open. In most cases, however, it was not exposed soil or decomposing moss that identified our experimental plots, but vegetation changes such as the loss of specific graminoids favoured by geese (notably Dupontia spp.) and increases in horsetail (Equisetum spp.) and the sedge Carex subspathacea. Thus, although goose grubbing is the most common form of disturbance across the tundra, the impact in terms of creating large areas of bare unvegetated soil is limited. A greater impact of goose disturbance may be a change in plant species composition in wetter vegetation types. Both of these findings should be taken into account when assessing the adaptive management plan for pink-footed geese.


Although disturbance to tundra vegetation by reindeer is lower than that of goose driven disturbance, the potential for reindeer activities to generate bare soil is greater than that for geese. This should be noted when considering the recently published findings on the size and spatial extent of the reindeer population in Svalbard.