According to recent findings presented at the annual meeting of the British Ecological Society (BES) in Liverpool, the average weight of reindeer in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic has dropped by 12 percent over the past 16 years. In fact, the average weight of adult reindeer has fallen to 48 kg from 55 kg in the 1990s. Researchers say that reindeers are shrinking because of climate change.
Norway's Reindeer Are Shrinking Because Of Climate Change
Reindeer are shrinking on an Arctic island near the north pole as a result of climate change that has curbed the amount of winter food available to the animals, scientists claimed on Monday. As reported by The Guardian, the average weight of adult reindeer on Svalbard, a chain of islands north of Norway, fell from 55kg (121lb) to 48kg (106lb) in the 1990s as part of sweeping changes to Arctic life while temperatures rose. “Warmer summers are great for reindeer but winters are getting increasingly tough,” Professor Steve Albon, an ecologist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland who led the study with Norwegian researchers, said.
According to WION, Albon and his fellow researchers blame climate change for the shrinking reindeer. Warmer winters mean more rain, which falls on snow and freezes into a sheet of ice, as mention in the BES event. The ice makes it harder for the herbivores to reach plant food. "Twelve percent may not sound very much, but given how important body weight is to reproduction and survival, it's potentially huge," explained Albon in an interview.
Reindeer's Survival Is A Must
The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, Subarctic, tundra, boreal and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North America. This includes both sedentary and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and at least one has already become extinct. For this reason, it is considered to be vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Winters are getting "increasingly tough", Albon said, and reindeer will often starve or give birth to under-developed young due to problems with the frozen food supply. Forecasts for the future are not optimistic. "Scientists are predicting there will be more smaller reindeer in the Arctic in the coming decades, even possible extinction," says the International Business Times. "The reindeer starve, aborting their calves or giving birth to much lighter young," BES said.