Alaska Science Center
New Areas Added by USFWS to the Arctic Coastal Plain Aerial Survey for Black Brant Geese
Starting in 1976, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Migratory Bird Management Office (Anchorage, Alaska) has conducted annual aerial surveys of the Teshekpuk Lake area (broken outline in the map below) to monitor abundance and distribution of molting geese in this area and in particular, molting Black Brant. Over this time span the size of the molting Black Brant population has been stable at about 20,000 birds in the traditional survey area (Flint et al. 2008).
In the early 2000’s, five new Black Brant molting areas (solid frames in the map below) outside of the traditional Teshekpuk survey area were identified by USGS Alaska Science Center. USGS subsequently identified a process of salt water inundation, sedimentation, and colonization of these coastal areas by a high quality plant forage that Black Brant prefer (Tape et al. 2014) and also documented that geese are moving into these newly vegetated areas (Flint et al. 2014).
From 2011 to 2013, the USFWS added two of the five new areas (Cape Simpson and the Piasuk River Delta) to their annual survey and found an additional 7,000 – 15,000 molting Black Brant in each area, increasing the total count of molting Black Brant by approximately 50% (from 20,000 to 30,000; Wilson et al. 2014). Cape Simpson and the Piasuk River Delta are now incorporated into the annual Teshekpuk Lake area survey flown by the USFWS. The remaining three areas (North Kogru, Atiguru Point, and the Colville River Delta) are surveyed every 5 years, starting in 2010.
The net result of adding the additional survey areas is a 50% increase in the estimated size of the molting population of Black Brant. These data contributed to the Bureau of Land Management 2013 Record of Decision to revise leasing and petroleum related infrastructure allowances in the Cape Simpson and Piasuk River Delta areas. More information about the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems research on Black Brant can be found here: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2014/3088/