Could Rudolph and friends help to slow down our warming climate?

reindeer
A wild reindeer with velvet covered antlers. Part of the southern herd on the island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic. Image: Wikipedia

Reindeer may be best known for pulling Santa's sleigh, but a new study suggests they may have a part to play in slowing down climate change too.

A team of researchers, writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that when reindeer reduce the height and abundance of shrubs on the Arctic tundra through grazing, the level of surface albedo - the amount of solar energy (shortwave radiation) reflected by the Earth back into space - is increased.

The study's lead author, Dr Mariska te Beest, from Umeå University in Sweden, said: "Our theory was that heavy grazing by reindeer increases summer albedo, through a reduction in shrub height, abundance and leaf area index (LAI). The effect reindeer grazing can have on albedo and energy balances is potentially large enough to be regionally important. It also points towards herbivore management being a possible tool to combat future warming. Most of the is grazed by either domesticated or wild reindeer, so this is an important finding.

"Of course, the impact the reindeer have will vary according to their densities and the subsequent effects on the vegetation levels across the whole tundra."

The study combined land surface computer modelling with measurements of albedo and vegetation characteristics taken in the field. The team carried out their field measurements in Reisadalen (Sámi: Raisduoddar), Troms, Norway, in an area with four topographically-defined vegetation types that varied in shrub height and abundance. They used a unique experimental set-up, where a more-than 50 year-old fence separated areas experiencing either light or heavy grazing by reindeer.

Working through the summer season, the team estimated reindeer activity in the study areas by using vegetation trampling indicators, and through collecting dung. They also measured the abundance of vegetation, its leaf area index, and the soil moisture and temperature levels, as well as the albedo levels.

Dr te Beest said: "We found that high densities of reindeer changed arctic tundra vegetation by decreasing shrub abundance. This resulted in corresponding shifts in LAI, canopy height and NDVI - the amount of live green vegetation.

"These pronounced changes in vegetation led in a substantial increase in albedo across the growing season. Our modelling results showed this increase in albedo would result in a corresponding decrease in net radiation and latent and sensible heat fluxes - indicating that heavily grazed sites absorbed less radiation.

"Our results show that have a potential cooling effect on climate, by changing the summer albedo. Although the estimated differences might appear small, they are large enough to have consequences for the regional energy balance."


Explore further

Climate change generates more Arctic tundra vegetation

More information: Reindeer grazing increases summer albedo by reducing shrub abundance in Arctic tundra, (te Beest M et al 2016 Environ. Res. Lett. 11 125013, iopscience.iop.org/article/10. … 48-9326/11/12/125013
Journal information: Environmental Research Letters

Citation: Could Rudolph and friends help to slow down our warming climate? (2016, December 21) retrieved 23 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-12-rudolph-friends-climate.html
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Dec 21, 2016
Animals have no significant positive effects on global warming; they go with the flow. Fundamentally, the only problem with global warming is the increase in arid areas, and the US, Africa and all other countries on that plane will be most effected. Flooding sure, but that is human stupidity to build so close to shore.

Dec 22, 2016
Fundamentally, the only problem with global warming...


False. You are conveniently omitting ocean acidification. The warming itself is a secondary effect caused by the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere now turning the oceans into soda water. The oceans are linchpins of most ecosystems. It's one thing for humans to have to relocate from coastal cities and another to lose the viability of entire swaths of oceans with violent climate events lumped on top of that (not just flooding). We're disturbing the climate at an unprecedented RATE not seeing in the geologic record. It's the rate, not the absolute temperature. Naive people constantly say what's the big deal with 2 degrees centigrade? Well, in the past those changes took ten thousand years. We've taken one hundred. Nature's protection mechanisms just don't function properly in such compressed timescales.

Dec 22, 2016
Add to that things like this: https://www.thegu...ears-wwf

The black swans are coming. Humanity is asking for it.

Dec 22, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Dec 27, 2016
Animals have no significant positive effects on global warming; they go with the flow. Fundamentally, the only problem with global warming is the increase in arid areas, and the US, Africa and all other countries on that plane will be most effected. Flooding sure, but that is human stupidity to build so close to shore.


Wrong yet again (as always) antigoracle sock
Fundementily you and your other socks are all and one the same bafoon, and here you are all exposed:
http://phys.org/n...ups.html

sorry xstos i mistakenly downvoted you 5/5 for you.

Dec 27, 2016
sorry xstos i mistakenly downvoted you 5/5 for you.

LOL.
The retard did whaaattt??

Dec 29, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Dec 30, 2016
Look at that Goracle flake. He loves to blow Al Gore(s) stuff all the time. What a retard! LOL.

Dec 31, 2016
sorry xstos i mistakenly downvoted you 5/5 for you.

LOL.
The retard did whaaattt??


Having a bad hair day monkey poo ?

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