Norwegian reindeer herds boosted by climate change

July 16, 2014 by Kath Paddison, University of Manchester

Researchers say climate change isn't threatening reindeer on the Norwegian high arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Instead the populations in the are thriving because of rising temperatures according to a study undertaken by scientists from The University of Manchester and the Norwegian arctic university in Tromsø.

The research team found out that the numbers of Svalbard reindeer have increased by 30% in the last year. This year's result continues the trend which has been observed accurately over the last 36 years.

The discovered this by counting the number of reindeer in the valley of Adventdalen in central Spitsbergen, part of a long term study of a reindeer population in Svalbard.

This is one of only a very few studies on animal populations and that involves animals being physically counted annually rather than estimated.

The total number of reindeer (including all births and all deaths) in Adventdalen have been recorded annually since 1979 by a team led by Dr Nicholas Tyler of the Norwegian arctic university.

The population of reindeer in Svalbard had increased in close parallel with winter warming in the last 35 years, growing from an average of around 600 animals in the early 1980s to an average of around 1,000 today.

Dr Tyler said: "Winter warming is widely held to be a major threat to reindeer across the arctic but, in the high of Svalbard global warming has had the opposite effect. Our data provides remarkable confirmation of this counter intuitive observation."

This summer a team from The University of Manchester, led by Dr Jonathan Codd and Mr Nathan Thavarajah, assisted with the annual census of reindeer in Adventdalen.

Dr Codd, who is the programme director for zoology at the university, said: "The results revealed a remarkably successful year for Svalbard reindeer. Despite very high numbers in 2013, the population increased by almost 30% and reached a new record of just over 1300 animals, more than three times the size in 1979 when the present series of counts began."

The team found very little winter mortality and very high calving – there were over 300 calves in the valley which was the second highest number ever recorded.

"The substantial increase in the numbers of reindeer is linked with frequent and pronounced periods of warm weather last winter," said Dr Codd. "In February the rose above freezing for six days reaching a maximum of +4.2°c and the streets of the Norwegian settlement at Longyearbyen were reported awash with melt water."

Explore further: Arctic reindeer cool with snow, but not rain, study says

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2014
Climate change is not threatening reindeer? How do you imagine that those reindeer are going to survive when the polar ice caps melt and they are in 40 feet of water? How are the reindeer NOT threatened by the fact that by the year 2020, it will be 15-20 degrees warmer than it is now, and they will bake in their fur coats. How are the reindeer NOT threatened by the increase in tornadoes and hurricanes that clearly result from this global climate transmogrification?

Do Drs. Tyler and Codd deny the holocaust also? Do they believe the earth is flat?

I think it should be illegal for people to express the sentiment that climate is anything less than changing in an unprecedented way, and that every single aspect of it whatsoever is not just bad, but evil. And I think anyone who suggests otherwise should be prosecuted for hate crimes. It's terrorism, really.

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