If you look at one corner of the Arctic, you might
conclude climate change means reindeer are better off. But those
that benefit are likely to be the exception rather than the rule,
Overall, warming is leading to loss of habitat, food
and declining reindeer populations.
According to an article in yesterday's
Times, reindeer numbers are growing on the Norwegian islands of
The piece is based on data from scientists at the
Arctic University of Norway, who have monitored reindeer
populations in Adventdalen Valley on Spitsbergen, Svalbard's main
island, since 1979.
The new research suggests the reindeer of Svalbard may
be doing OK out of climate change, as melting ice reveals new
grazing territory. But this is the latest estimate from one group
of researchers, and not all scientists are as confident of such a
Getting a handle on reindeer numbers in these vast and
remote landscapes is difficult. This Smithsonian
feature from March explores researcher Steve Albon's
efforts to monitor reindeers in Svalbard, where he says the impact
of climate change is not yet well understood.
Reindeer in decline
Svalbard is just one part of the Arctic where reindeer
live. And the picture looks very different in some other parts.
How reindeer populations are faring across the Arctic. Green
is increasing, red is decreasing and orange is unknown.
Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010