Response of staging brant to disturbance at Izembek Lagoon, Alaska

Wildlife Society Bulletin
By: , and 



Human disturbance of migrating waterfowl concerns managers of wildlife populations and refuges. Human disturbance may reduce food intake through interruption of foraging bouts or by displacement from feeding areas (Madsen 1985, Belanger and Bedard 1989), and it may increase energy expenditure from additional time in flight (Korschgen et al., 1985). Reduced food intake and increased energy expenditure can affect the ability of waterfowl to acquire nutrient reserves for successful migration (Fredrickson and Drobney 1979, Davis and Wiseley 1974, Belanger and Bedard 1990). Furthermore, nutrient reserves acquired during fall migration may influence overwinter survival (Haramis et al. 1986).

Over 90% of the Pacific Flyway population of brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) annually migrates to the Izembek Lagoon, Alaska and adjacent areas in fall (Bellrose 1976, Reed et al. 1989). During the 4- to 10-week staging period, brant feed predominantly on energy-rich common eelgrass (Zostera marina) prior to a transoceanic flight to coastal wintering areas in Washington, Oregon, California, and Mexico (Hansen and Nelson 1957, Morehouse 1974, Bellrose 1976). The lzembek Lagoon, a wetland of international importance (Smart 1987), also is a major staging area for Canada geese (Branta canadensis taverneri), emperor geese (Chen canagica), and other waterbirds (Ward and Stehn 1989).

Brant are disturbed by aircraft and other human activities. Jones and Jones (1966) noted that aircraft caused brant to take flight in fall at the Izembek Lagoon. Aircraft influence movements of molting brant and evoke escape responses (Derksen et al. 1979, Jensen 1990). Aircraft, boats, and hunters affect distribution of wintering brant and cause premature departures from feeding areas (Owens 1977, Kramer et al 1979, Henry 1980). However, few data have been published concerning the extent to which disturbance affects behavior of fall-staging brant.

Our objective was to measure current disturbance levels and to determine the extent to which disturbance affects the behavior of brant at the Izembek Lagoon during fall. This baseline information is needed to monitor any future changes in these levels and to provide guidelines for alleviating conflicts where increased human activities cause excessive disturbance.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Response of staging brant to disturbance at Izembek Lagoon, Alaska
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 22
Issue 2
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 220
Last page 228
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Izembek Lagoon
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