Global Warming is Affecting the Arctic Reindeer Population

Global warming may be affecting one of the Arctic region’s most famous inhabitants, according to ecologists who have been studying the herds for over 20 years.

 

Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus, or Svalbard reindeer, are a subspecies of reindeer that live in the circumpolar region. Ecologists have been keeping a close eye on the weight of individual reindeer that they have tagged in order to get an idea about the general health of the semi-nomadic animals. What they have found is surprising. The average weight of the reindeer has fallen from 121 pounds in 1994 to 106 pounds in 2010. They have also noted an increase in miscarriages and underweight calves.

 

The problem is not shrinking habitat due to rising sea levels along the coast, as one might suspect. The problem is increased rainfall caused by warmer weather. All of the extra rain means more ice, and the reindeer are not able to break through thick ice to get to the grass underneath. The animals have been moving toward the coast, where possible, to forage. Coastal vegetation in the circumpolar region, however, is not as nutritious for the reindeer. This past decade has seen at least 80,000 reindeer starve to death.

 

The outlook is uncertain for all species of reindeer. Experts are not worried about extinction at this point, but they are concerned that less forage and lower birth rates will significantly impact the reindeer population in the coming years.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *