Low Abundance of King Eider Nests during Low Lemming Years in Northeast Greenland


  • Benoît Sittler
  • Olivier Gilg
  • Thomas B. Berg




arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, collared lemming, Dicrostonyx groenlandicus, Greenland, king eider, Somateria spectabilis, population cycles, predation


Long-term surveys on Traill Island (Northeast Greenland) show that numbers of king eider (Somateria spectabilis) nests are correlated with high densities of collared lemming (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus). These observations match other zoological records from this region and agree with similar observations recorded elsewhere for arctic geese. Processes at work may be related to the fact that mammalian predators focus on lemmings when lemming numbers are high, but exert higher predation pressure on other prey at low lemming densities. Predators seem to increase their search effort during such low lemming years, thus increasing the likelihood that they will discover eider nests. This study highlights the importance of studying patterns at the community level in any attempt to interpret cyclic fluctuations in northern ecosystems.