Haitao Tian

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The Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus), smallest of the “grey” geese, is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and protected in all range states. There are three sub-populations, with the least studied being the East Asian sub-population, shared between Russia and China. The extreme remoteness of breeding enclaves makes them largely inaccessible to researchers. As a substitute for visitation, remotely tracking birds from wintering grounds allows exploration of their summer range. Over a period of three years, and using highly accurate GPS tracking devices, eleven individuals of A. erythropus were tracked from the key wintering site of Dongting Lake, China, to breeding, molting, and staging sites in north-eastern Russia. Data obtained from that tracking, bolstered by ground survey and literature records, were used to model the summer distribution of A. erythropus. Although earlier literature suggests the summer range is patchy, the model confirms a contiguous summer range. The most suitable habitats are located along the coasts of the Laptev Sea, primarily the Lena-Delta, in the Yana-Kolyma Lowland, and smaller lowlands of Chukotka with narrow riparian extensions upstream along major rivers such as the Lena, Indigirka and Kolyma. The probability of A. erythropus presence is related to sites with altitude less than 500 m with abundant wetlands, especially riparian habitat, and a climate with precipitation of warmest quarter around 55 mm and mean temperature of wettest quarter around 14oC. Human disturbance also affects site suitability, with a gradual decrease in species presence starting around 160 km from human settlements. Remote tracking of animal species can bridge the knowledge gap required for robust estimation of species distribution patterns in remote areas. Better knowledge of species’ distribution is important in understanding the large-scale ecological consequences of rapid global change and establishing conservation management strategies.