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					Research ideas                                                  National Goose Forum/13/98


                            Areas for Further Research

             A Paper for consideration by the National Goose Forum, October 1998

                      Andrew Douse, Scottish Natural Heritage, Edinburgh


1.    Purpose of Paper
      1.1.     The purpose of this paper is to discuss possible ideas for further research on
               geese and their interactions with different land uses, mainly agriculture.
      1.2.     The paper is designed to stimulate debate and is not considered or intended to
               be a conclusive summary of future research needs.
2.    Background
      2.1.     There has been an enormous amount of research (and survey) work carried
               out on geese, because of their impacts on different land uses, and their value
               in more academically orientated work (they occur in large numbers, are easy
               to catch, mark and observe, and have relatively simple behavioural/social
               systems).
      2.2.     Most published research work focuses on goose populations in North America
               (where they are an enormously valuable resource for hunting), and in the
               Western Palaearctic, where conflicts with agriculture and their value as an
               economic resource predominate.
      2.3.     Increasingly, biologists are becoming concerned about impacts on fragile
               Arctic ecosystems (especially in North America, where goose numbers have
               grown to unprecedented levels and many Arctic habitats are grossly over-
               grazed). This appears not to be a problem in Western Palaearctic goose
               populations (at least at present).
      2.4.     This paper will concentrate on areas of research necessary for understanding
               interactions with different land use systems, and will ignore academic
               research currently in progress.
      2.5.     The areas of concern are:
               2.5.1. Impacts on land use systems
               2.5.2. Economic impacts (costs and benefits)
               2.5.3. Management measures
               2.5.4. Population studies
               2.5.5. Other land uses (e.g. forestry and fresh waters)
3.    Land Use (agriculture) impacts
      3.1.     The research review commissiond for the National Goose Forum summarises
               much of what is known about impacts of geese on agricultural systems.
               While the information base could be improved in many respects, there is little
               doubt that in many agricultural situations goose grazing can have a detrimental
               impact on agricultural production (generally in the form of early spring grass,
               silage, and in some situations, winter cereals).
      3.2.     It is suggested that there is little value in the National Goose Forum
               promoting further research work in this area. Most studies take place
               over at least a 2-3 year period, and it is unlikely that further research work will

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Research ideas                                               National Goose Forum/13/98


             shed much additional light on this. Several projects (University based) are
             already ongoing, and there may be a need to review the implications of these.
             One possible exception is possible impacts on new crops. Geese have not
             yet started to feed on oil seed rape to any great extent, but this may happen in
             the future (as it has in some European countries), exacerbating already
             significant losses to pigeons, and locally, mute and whooper swans.
4.    Economic Impacts
      4.1.   Economic costs and benefits of geese are hard to quantify. While there are
             clear losses to farmers, there are counter benefits in terms of wildfowling and
             tourism (see National Goose Forum/12/98).
      4.2.   In 1994 an economic analysis of the brent goose problem was published by
             Vickery et al. This showed that there were different costs and benefits to
             different sections of society, and that the overall situation was more complex
             than might initially have been thought.
      4.3.   It is suggested that a similar exercise for wintering goose populations in
             Scotland may be considered worthwhile. Such an evaluation might also
             take into account other land use impacts, such as impacts on fresh water
             systems, especially drinking water reservoirs and those used for recreation
             such as angling, where water quality issues are paramount.
5.    Management Methods
      5.1.   The review of management techniques (National Goose Forum/10/98) dealt
             with the range of techniques currently adopted at imitating agricultural damage.
      5.2.   In particular, scaring techniques have been widely written about but there is
             little controlled experimental work on the intensity and frequency of scaring
             necessary to produce particular outcomes. Much ‘    evidence’is anecdotal, and
             there is very little quantification of effectiveness. Even in the two goose
             management schemes where scaring operates, there is little empirical
             evidence collected on effort required in relation to outcome. There is better
             evidence from Aberdeenshire, collected as part of the Strathbeg Goose
             Management Scheme (now not in operation).
      5.3.   There is, therefore, some potential for some carefully controlled
             experimental work on efficacy of scaring in different situations. Such
             work would take time, and would need to focus on those key species where
             damage is known to be most problematical. Islay is clearly one area where
             scaring may need to be considered as part of an overall management
             scheme. Similarly further research on scaring as a management measure in
             crofting areas where goose numbers are lower but agricultural (and
             environmental) impacts may be proportionately great may also be justified.
      5.4.   Further research into extensification (see section 8.5 of National Goose
             Forum/10/98) may also be worthwhile.
      5.5.   Suggestions for additional work are invited from National Goose Forum
             members.
6.    Population Studies
      6.1.   Currently good information is collected on goose populations in Scotland. This
             information is largely collected through the JNCC-WWT contract (see
             National Goose Forum/7/98), and this is believed to be adequate for monitoring
             of most populations (feral populations are less well covered).


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Research ideas                                                National Goose Forum/13/98


      6.2.   Most of these regular counts also collect data on productivity, through
             observations of proportions of juveniles in the population.
      6.3.   Collecting detailed population and demographic data generally requires long
             term ringing schemes, which may be outwith the scope of the National Goose
             Forum. However, long term schemes are in progress for Svalbard population
             of barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, Greenland population of barnacle geese
                                                    native’greylag geese.
             (?), Greenland white-fronted geese and ‘
      6.4.   Further work on population modelling may be appropriate, and this will
             be discussed as part of National Goose Forum/16/98.
      6.5.   A major problem in the collection of data is the absence of bag statistics for
             the quarry species (Icelandic and feral greylag geese, as well as pink-footed
             geese). Such data is available from Iceland, yet is not collected in UK, and it
             is currently difficult to ascertain the extent of shooting mortality in UK. This is
             likely to be an ongoing problem for management of grey goose populations.
      6.6.   Consideration should be given to ways of collecting annual bag
             statistics for grey geese in the UK.
7.    Other Land Uses.
      7.1.   Forestry.       Geese do not eat trees, but forestry can impact on goose
             populations through afforestation of key roost sites. The response of geese to
             such afforestation is not clear and there has been little research on this matter.
                                                   s
             If the UK government is to meet it’ international obligations then this issue
             needs to be addressed. It may only be relevant to some parts of Scotland e.g.
             Kintyre, SE and SW Scotland. SNH has recently let a contract to look at
             afforestation, and a draft (but incomplete) report has been submitted. Further
             research ideas may originate from this.
      7.2.   There is a particular issue of forestry in the Central Belt where the proposed
             development of the Central Scotland Forest may conflict with conservation
             requirements of bean geese.
      7.3.   Fresh waters.       Geese roost in large numbers on fresh water lochs (mostly
             at night), often those used for drinking water and recreational activities, such
             as angling.      The role of geese in affecting water quality is poorly
             understood, and there may be opportunities for further research in this
             area.


8.    Summary
      8.1.   Possible research ideas are listed below.
             8.1.1. It is suggested that there is little value in the National Goose Forum
                    promoting further research work in this area.
             8.1.2. It is suggested that a similar exercise for wintering goose populations in
                    Scotland may be considered worthwhile.
             8.1.3. There is, therefore, some potential for some carefully controlled
                    experimental work on efficacy of scaring in different situations.
             8.1.4. Further research into extensification (see section 8.5 of National
                    Goose Forum/10/98) may also be worthwhile.
             8.1.5. Further work on population modelling may be appropriate, and this will
                    be discussed as part of National Goose Forum/16/98.

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Research ideas                                               National Goose Forum/13/98


               8.1.6. Consideration should be given to ways of collecting annual bag
                      statistics for grey geese in the UK.
               8.1.7. Further work on forestry impacts may be necessary.
               8.1.8. The role of geese in affecting water quality is poorly understood, and
                      there may be opportunities for further research in this area.



ANDREW DOUSE
Species Group
Advisory Services
Tel.:    0131 446 2424
Fax:     0131 446 2405
e-mail   andrew.douse@rasdsnh.demon.co.uk


1st October 1998




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