An International Polar Year initiative to use predators as indicators of arctic changes

line decor


towards a circumpolar monitoring

IPY arctic predators field sites




Field site 1. Svalbard: Isfjorden & Ny-Ålesund, Norway

Site responsibles: Ronny Aanes, Eva Fuglei and Harald Steen, Norwegian Polar Institute

Coordinates: 78°30'N 18°00'E 

Tundra zone: Middle - High arctic

Climate: Atlantic region (Fig. 3), frequent thaw/freeze periods in winter

Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation: mosaic of various types as middle to high arctic tundra

Herbivores: No lemming or native voles, only a very local introduced population of sibling vole (Microtus rossiae meridionalis), Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) present year round, not migratory; Svalbard ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea) is the only resident bird; Geese (Branta leucopsis, Branta bernicla, Anser brachyrhynchus)

Predators: arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus); arctic fox (Vulpex lagopus)

Trophic interaction cycles: none

Marine subsidies: High. Seabirds, carcasses of seals

Previous and ongoing research activities:Long time monitoring series on reindeer since 1978 and 1979, arctic fox since 1997, ptarmigan since 2000, sibling vole since 1989, geese since mid 1980's, seabirds since 1988

Infrastructure: Well developed in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, regular flights every week




Svalbard reindeer

little auk

little auk


Field site 2. Varanger peninsula, Norway

Site responsible: Rolf A. Ims and Nigel G. Yoccoz, University of Tromsø 

Coordinates: 70°20’N, 30°00’E 

Tundra zone: Southern arctic (at the border to sub-arctic/northern boreal)

Climate zone: Atlantic region (Fig. 3), mild winters with relatively high winter Variability 


Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation: Erect shrub tundra

Herbivores: Norwegian lemming (Lemmus lemmus); voles (Clethrionomys rufocanus and Microtus oeconomus); hare (Lepus timidus); ptarmigan (Lagopus) spp.; migratory semi-domestic reindeer

Predators: red fox (Vulpes vulpes); wolverine (Gulo gulo); golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); raven (Corvus corax); Falco spp.; mustelids (weasels and stoats), arctic fox (rare), rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus), long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus), arctic skua and snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) (rare)

Trophic interaction cycles: 4-5 years, relatively low amplitude

Marine subsidies: Moderate – low


Previous and ongoing research activities: “The Ecosystem Finnmark” and “Arctic fox in Finnmark” projects 2003-2007 focusing on trophic interactions within the plant based food web. Monitoring of small rodents since 1988


Infrastructure: Well developed as the Varanger peninsula is inhabited.


some pictures of automatic

stations in Varanger




arctic foxes


Sea eagle


red fox


Field site 3. Nenetski Zapovednik and Ostrov Dolgi, Russia

Site responsible: Andrey S. Glotov, Nenetski NatureReserve 

Coordinates: Ostrov Dolgi (island): 68.8°N, 59°E

Nenetski Zapovednik (mainland): 68°-69°N, 52°-54°E

Tundra zone: southern and typical tundra zone.

Climate zone: Atlantic region, but colder winters than Varanger 

Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation: arctic tundra (no shrubs) on Ostrov Dolgi, shrub tundra on the mainland

Herbivores: Lemmings (mostly Dicrostonyx torquatus, but also Lemmus sibiricus), voles (Microtus spp.), ptarmigan and geese. Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) and water voles (Arvicola terrestris) are increasing in numbers. About 5000 domestic reindeer winter in the area of the Nature reserve. No rodents, but large breeding population of geese and eider (Somateria mollissima) on the island Ostrov Dolgi.

Predators: arctic fox, red fox, wolverine and wolves (Canis lupus). Resident arctic foxes are also on Ostrov Dolgi. Birds of prey: snowy owls, rough-legged buzzard, peregrine falcon. No birds of prey on Ostrov Dolgi

Trophic interaction cycles: Cyclic with unknown periodicity and amplitude. No cycles on Ostrov Dolgi

Marine subsidies: From strong (Ostrov Dolgi) to low/moderate on mainland 

Previous and ongoing research activities: Monitoring of the Arctic fox population is carried out since 2003 by the nature reserve (A. Glotov), and for the last 20 years by the researchers from the University of Arkhangelsk. The focus is on population density, sex and age distribution, and projections for the evolution of the population size. On Ostrov Dolgi mapping of species and monitoring since 2002. Arctic foxes are trapped in the area and A. Glotov has contacts with trappers, samples for stable isotope analysis will be available

Infrastructure: Field station near Nature reserve, which is accessible by boat from Naryan-Mar. On Ostrov Dolgi field camp, accessible only by helicopter (1.5 hours one way from Naryan Mar)



Below some pictures of Andrej in the nature reserve




Field site 4. Yamal: River Erkuta, Russia

Site responsible: Alexander Sokolov, Ural Division Russian Academy of Sciences

Coordinates: 68°13N, 69°09E 

Tundra zone: southern tundra 

Climate zone: Atlantic region, cold winters with relatively variable winters


Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation: shrub tundra

Herbivores: Dicrostonyx torquatus, Lemmus sibiricus, Microtus middendorfii, M. gregalis, Clethrionomys rutilus. M. middendorffi and D. torquatus are the most commonspecies. Other herbivores are ptarmigan, hare, geese. Domestic reindeer migrate through the site in spring and fall (3000-4000), about 300 overwinter.

Predators: Arctic foxes (reproduce in the area, and migrate in larger numbers through it in spring and fall), wolves (a problem for reindeer herder, hunted), weasel and ermine. In general in the Yamal region, lynx (Lynx lynx), brown bears ( Ursus arctos) and red foxes spread northward. Avian predators in the area include rough-legged buzzard, peregrine falcon, pomarine (Stercorarius pomarinus), long-tailed and arctic skuas, pallid (Circus macrorus; observed first time in 2003 at Erkuta last year) and hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), short-eared owls (Asio flammeus). Snowy owls are more common in winter.

Trophic interaction cycles: medium amplitude, period of 3-4 years.


Marine subsidies: probably low



Previous and ongoing research activities: Monitoring of small rodent densities using standard trap lines since 1998, the populations experience multi-annual density fluctuations with medium amplitude and a period of 3-4 years. During the same time period predator populations have been observed on a study plot of 100km 2 . Nests and breeding success is recorded, and fox dens are inspected. Arctic foxes are trapped in the area. A. Sokolov traps himself and has contacts to trappers


Infrastructure: the site can be reached from Labytnangi by car (220 km), field camp; motor boat, generator and satellite telephone are available. The field plot is situated 6 km from a trading point for reindeer herder (faktoria)



rough-legged buzzard


long-tailed jaeger


collared lemming


Middendorf's vole

Field site 5. Taimyr: Medusa Bay, Russia

Site responsible: Bart S. Ebbinge, Alterra- Ecosystem Center  

Coordinates: 73.36°N, 80.53°E 

Tundra zone: southern part of the arctic tundra zone, Pyassina delta in the arctic tundra zone

Climate zone: Siberian region 

Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation: tundra with dwarf shrubs and herbs. Meadow like vegetation on slopes with southern exposition and in depressions.

Herbivores: lemmings Lemmus sibiricus and Dicrostonyx torquatus, the first considerably more abundant than the second. Other herbivores are hare, ptarmigan, geese and reindeer, which migrate to Medusa Bay each summer, but reach the Pyassina Delta only in warm years. Muskox (Ovibos moschatus; reintroduced to eastern Taimyr) have been seen.

Predators: arctic foxes, stoat, a few wolves. Snowy owl, rough-legged buzzard, peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the three species of skuas.

Trophic interaction cycles: high amplitude, (2-) 3-4 years period

Marine subsidies: moderate-high 

Previous and ongoing research activities: Monitoring of lemmings at Medusa Bay since 1993, with trapping carried out in most years and qualitative observations in some. The breeding activity of snowy owls and arctic foxes observed within studies focusing on breeding success of geese and waders. Similar observations have been carried out in the Pyassina Delta in 1993-1995 and 2002, 2004-2005, and will be carried out this year. Arctic foxes are trapped in the area and DE has contacts to trappers

Infrastructure: The Willem Barents field station in Medusa Bay (Great Arctic Nature Reserve) 20 km south of the village Dickson (accessible by regular flights, bad and expensive connection). The station can be reached by snow scooter, chain car or boat. It is relatively well equipped (heating, generator) and quite expensive in drift. A field camp consisting of several huts has been established in the Pyassina Delta by ornithologists from the Netherlands in 1993. Accessible by helicopter only





Below photos by Jaap Mulder (Alterra)


jaeger chick


the endangered lesser white-fronted goose


Siberian lemming



Field site 6. Lena Delta, Russia

Site responsible: Vladimir Pozdnyakov, International Biological Station “Lena-Nordenskjöld”

Coordinates: 72°-74°N, 120°-129°E

Tundra zone: mostly northern sub-arctic tundra zone, arctic tundra zone in the northernmost part

Climate zone: Siberian region, very cold, stable winters

Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation: Various vegetation types in different parts of the area

Herbivores: Lemmus sibiricus and Dicrostonyx torquatus, the first one about three times more common than the second. Microtus gregalis and M. middendorffi occur at low densities in the southern part of the delta. About 3000-4000 reindeer on the territory of the delta (last census in 1994), and 80 muskox (reintroduced in 1996). Other herbivores are geese, swans and eiders

Predators: Arctic fox, ermine, stoat and a few wolves. Birds of prey are snowy owls, rough-legged buzzard, peregrine falcon and three species of skuas

Trophic interaction cycles: Lemmings experience multi-annual density fluctuations with a period of 3-4 years (20 peaks in the last 69 years, 12 3-years cycles, 6 4-years cycles and 1 2-years period between two peaks)

Marine subsidies: relatively high

Previous and ongoing research activities : information about snowy owls from about 30 years of observation. V. Pozdnyakov works in the delta every summer since 1992 and registers observations of all animals, especially birds. Nature reserve workers (Lena Delta Nature Reserve) write down qualitative observations each year since 1986. Arctic foxes are trapped for personal needs by local people

Infrastructure: International biological station Lena-Nordenskjold (Department of Nature Protection, republic Sakha(Ya)) about 65km from the village Tiksi. The station has a good standard, can be reached by snow-scooter, boat, chain car or helicopter depending on the season. Expensive drift. Other stations exist, for example the meteorological station Stolb or a field station of the Lena Delta Nature Reserve on the island Tit-Ary, accessible by boat




peregrine falcon


brent goose


red phalaropes

Field site 7. Wrangel Island, Russia

Site responsibles: Nikita Ovsyanikov and Irina Menyushina, Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve

Coordinates: 71°20'N 179°30'E

Tundra zone: arctic tundra zone but due to its unique history as a never glaciated region it has a considerably higher biodiversity (both plants and animals) than any otherregion at this latitude

Climate zone: Pacific region; cold winters with influence of Pacific air masses

Food web structure and dynamics:

Vegetation:Various tundra vegetation types in different parts of the island

Carnivores: lemmings Dicrostonyx vinogradovi and Lemmus sibiricus portenkoi. Reindeer and muskox were introduced during the 20th century. Large colonies of geese

Predators: Arctic fox, wolverine and wolves. Avian predators include snowy owl, gyrfalcon and peregrine falcon, short-eared owl and pomarine and long-tailed skuas.

Trophic interaction cycles: period of 3-4 years.

Marine subsidies: moderate

Previous and ongoing research activities:

Long-term study of Arctic foxes started in 1980. Since 1986, also the population of snowy-owls is monitored, and data on skuas are collected. Other predators included in the studies are wolverines and wolves. Focus on abundance, distribution, population structure and dynamics, breeding success, social structure, foraging behavior and biocoenotic relations. An additional focus is the colonies of snow geese and eiders forming under the protection of snowy owls. Lemming opulations monitored since 1972 (snap-trapping in earlier years and winter nest counting and active den counts more recently)

Standard methods developed over years of research in the island are used for each species. Data about predators from the 1970s are also available. Snow goose colonies and other bird populations are also subject of ongoing studies. As the whole island is a nature reserve, there is no fox trapping on Wrangel island

Infrastructure: Wrangel island can only be reached by helicopter from the village Pevek. Field research stations exist on the island. There is no fuel or other supplies on the island, so that everything has to be brought from the mainland. Part of N. Ovsyanikov’s current management activities are aimed at developing the old facilities into a modern station of international significance



arctic fox in summer

snowy owl

snowy owl


wrangel island landscape






university of Moscow




institute of ecology


Norwegian polar institute

nenetski nature reserve



 IPY-Arctic Predators project

Department of Biology, University of Tromsø and Norwegian Polar Institute N-9037 Tromsø, Norway

Phone: +47 77 64 62 72
- Website design by Nicolas Lecomte