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Adaptations to challenging environments in common eiders

Adaptations to challenging environments in common eiders

The common eider (Somateria mollissima) is a flagship species of the Baltic Sea, and an important link between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem: it feeds extensively on blue mussels while it is itself prey to a number of predators. The species’ population dynamics is representative for other ground-nesting waterbirds. The eider also exhibits a fascinating and diverse array of facultatively social parental care strategies. The population in the Baltic Sea is set in a precipitous decline, the reasons for which are debated. Rapidly increasing predation risk is likely one main driver of the decline. However, the relationship between food availability for eiders and the effects of increased predation is complex, considering the concomitant impacts of climate change. A better understanding of this complexity requires individual-based long-term monitoring of reproductive success and survival, as well as behavioural, cognitive and physiological responses to increased predation and other environmental stressors.

We have pursued these questions for over three decades using an individually marked population of eiders from the western Gulf of Finland. We aim to determine the eider’s adaptation potential to current and future conditions, and to identify novel solutions for halting the current population decline, with the potential to reconcile conflicts between conservation priorities for different species. 

Research group and collaborators:

Doc. Markus Öst (Google Scholar)

FM Ida Hermansson

MSc Bertille Mohring

Doc. Kim Jaatinen

Dr. Frédéric Angelier

Dr. Børge Moe & Dr. Sveinn-Are Hanssen


Period Name
2020-2024 Predation on the endangered eider in a changing environment (PI Ida Hermansson)
2021-2023 Research and monitoring of common eiders (PI Kim Jaatinen) 
2020-2023 The adaptive significance of individual stress coping in female eiders (Somateria mollissima) (PI Bertille Mohring) 
2022 COPINGBIRD: A comparison of stress-coping strategies of eiders breeding in Kongsfjorden (Svalbard) and Tvärminne (RIS-ID 11858; PIs Børge Moe and Bertille Mohring) 
2021-2022 Project 168333 (PI Markus Öst)



Tvärminne Zoological Station

Updated 25.3.2022