Photos: Goose habitat in NPR-A

Black brant geese congregate at the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area to shed their worn-out flight feathers. The geese have altered their distribution on the North Slope to take advantage of new and favorable habitat along the Arctic Ocean shore.
Tyler Lewis / USGS
Rapid coastal erosion, aided by scarcity of sea ice, has exposed the ice-rich permafrost beneath the active layer just below the surface that the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
Brandt Meixell / USGS
Geese, with digestive systems that are simpler than those of caribou, prefer the coastal plants because they have high protein content but less fiber than the uplands tundra.
Brandt Meixell / USGS
Inside the buried peat are remnants of old uplands vegetation that has been replaced by the salt-tolerant plants.
Brandt Meixell / USGS
A patch of land shows the difference in vegetation. On the left are the low-biomass, high-protein, salt-tolerant plants, preferred by geese, that are thriving as permafrost thaws and erosion eats away shorelines; on the right are the high-biomass, salt-intolerant tundra plants on which caribou forage.
Brandt Meixell / USGS
Soil core obtained from existing goose grazing lawn along the Smith River in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska. Buried peat layer broken open. Closer examination of the buried peat layer demonstrates that non-salt-tolerant vegetation from the past was buried in sediment which now supports high-quality goose forage.
Brandt Meixell / USGS
USGS Biologist Brandt Meixell and other scientists spend summers in the National Petroleum Reserve, where they are monitoring changes in plants and in goose behavior. They are doing some experiments to see what happens when tundra is cooled by shade or heated by greenhouse structures.
Laura Tennant / USGS
Yereth Rosen

Diminished Arctic sea ice and thawing permafrost, phenomena that reinforce the climate change cycle and perpetuate the region’s warming trend, are not bad for all creatures of the north, a new study has found.

On Alaska’s North Slope, the changes have proved good for geese, according to a new study by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Alaska and published in the latest issue of Environmental Research Letters.

Brant -- a type of small, dark goose that winters in Baja Mexico and migrates each spring to Alaska -- are thriving on the changing North Slope coastline, the scientists found.

“Essentially, it looks like the brant population has grown both in numbers and in range,” said Paul Flint, a USGS wildlife biologist and study co-author.

Read more: Global warming winner? North Slope brant thriving amid changes

Contact Yereth Rosen at