January 4, 2017 • Alena Gerasimova
Reindeer are helping to slow down climate change by grazing on Arctic tundra and leaving vegetation that reflects more solar energy back into space.
Reindeer are best known – at least in much of the northern hemisphere – 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).
November 16, 2016 • Philip Burgess
Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto
From the press release announcing a new paper entitled ‘Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia’ published today in the journal, Biology Letters. You can read the article in full here.
Scientists have interviewed nomadic reindeer herders in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of West Siberia, the world’s most productive reindeer herding region, to look at how global warming is affecting their way of life. While rain-on-snow generally does not cause problems in spring, it can be catastrophic for reindeer in the autumn when rain turns to an ice crust as normal freezing temperatures return. This crust, often several centimetres thick,
prevents the reindeer from feeding on fodder beneath the snow throughout the winter
months. Two extreme weather events in 2006 and 2013 caused mass starvation among the
reindeer herds, and researchers for the first time have linked these extreme weather events
on the coastal mainland in northwest Russia with sea ice loss in the adjoining Barents and
The most recent rain-on-snow event of November 2013 resulted in 61 000 reindeer deaths,
about 22% out of 275 000 reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula, says the paper, which warns
that these events seem to be increasing in severity.
November 3, 2015 • Philip Burgess
Tomorrow, the 12th General Assembly of the Northern Forum gets underway in Yakutsk in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutsk). The Northern Forum is a non-profit, international organization composed of sub-national or regional governments from eight northern countries and was established in 1991. The goal of the Northern Forum is to give northern regional leaders a means to share knowledge and experience in addressing common challenges and to support sustainable development and the implementation of cooperative socio-economic initiatives among Northern regions and through international fora.
The Assembly will focus on the following broad themes:
1. Role of the Northern Subnationals in the changing World – new opportunities and challenges
2. Positive life strategies for Northern populations
3. Forms and Mechanisms of Business cooperation within the Northern Forum
4. Regional strategies for Climate Change Adaptation
5. Infrastructure in the North
6. Enhancing traditional livelihoods, preservation of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge on food culture
The focus on food will see a significant contribution by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR), the Association of World Reindeer Herders (WRH), the Nomadic Herders project and the EALLU project. In addition, there will be a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of WRH and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of ICR. See the full programme below.
May 23, 2015 • Philip Burgess
A few years ago, UNU (United Nations University) filmed a short interview with the Executive Chair of the Association of World Reindeer Herders Mikhail Pogodaev and Nancy Maynard of NASA, after they presented a joint paper entitled “Sami Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and NASA Remote Sensing Technologies Working Together for Adaptation Strategies” at an international workshop on Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge convened in Mexico City, Mexico. You can now watch the interview online (see below) and you can download the presentation here.
May 22, 2015 • Philip Burgess
One of the deliveries of the Arctic Council SDWG project EALÁT Information was the creation of a 30 minute documentary entitled “EALÁT – People and Reindeer in a Changing Climate’ which gave a broad overview of the various work packages of the EALÁT scientific project and in addition the community workshops held with herders across Eurasia to discuss climate change and traditional knowledge. You can now watch the whole documentary on You Tube here. The documentary was created by the Interntional Centre for Reindeer Husbandry.
February 26, 2015 • Philip Burgess
The Daily Mail in the UK has run a story on the holes that have been appearing suddenly on the Yamal tundra, which is home to Russia’s largest sources of natural gas, most of which is shipped to Europe by pipeline and also the world’s largest single area of reindeer husbandry. There are many theories about why these holes are appearing now, and climate change would appear to be playing a role.
Scientists have found four new craters have been spotted in the region. Worryingly, one crater was found about 10 km from the extensive Bovanenkovo gas field.
Read the full story, with some great photos here.
September 3, 2014 • Philip Burgess
One of the stories of the summer was the sudden appearance of large holes in the Yamal Peninsula, the largest single area of reindeer husbandry and also the site of mega gas extraction, making the region critically important for the Russian state. The fact that Yamal translates as ‘the end of the land’, was fodder for conspiracy theorists and alien believers.
Some alarming articles appeared suggesting that this may well be a sign of the end of days. However, more serious articles (e.g. a Nature piece you can read here and a piece on the Alaska Dispatch News here) attributed the holes to a build up of methane from thawing permafrost according to a Russian team investigating the sites, offering the abnormally warm summers of 2012 and 2013 on Yamal as a possible explanation. Of course this is of interest to the Reindeer Portal as some of the holes were discovered by reindeer herders, some of whom took pictures of themselves by these other worldly looking holes.
Either way, the appearance of these holes are a concern for us all and will be watched closely by herders and scientists alike in the future. A great series of photos from the sites are on the Siberian Times here and a video which you can see below.
April 3, 2014 • Philip Burgess
Important documents now available related to the IPCC 5th Assessment and the event that was held in Kautokeino. First is the ‘Summary for Policymakers / WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL‘
The Working Group I contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) considers new evidence of climate change based on many independent scientific analyses from observations of the climate system, paleoclimate archives, theoretical studies of climate processes and simulations using climate models. It builds upon the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), and incorporates subsequent new findings of research. As a component of the fifth assessment cycle, the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) is an important basis for information on changing weather and climate extremes. This Summary for Policymakers (SPM) follows the structure of the Working Group I report. The narrative is supported by a series of overarching highlighted conclusions which, taken together, provide a concise summary. Main sections are introduced with a brief paragraph in italics which outlines the methodological basis of the assessment.
April 1, 2014 • Philip Burgess
A photo gallery of the launch of the IPCC 5th Assessment report held yesterday in Kautokeino is now up. See all the photos here.
Watch a video prepared for the event here.
Read the Press Release for the event.
March 31, 2014 • Philip Burgess
On March 31st, 2014, the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held an outreach event to commemorate the release of the 5th Assessment of the IPCC. The meeting was opened with a new video by ICR that introduces some of the changes that herders are seeing in their pastures.
March 21, 2014 • Philip Burgess
Local reindeer grazing history is an important determinant in the response of an ecosystem’s carbon sink to climate warming, say researchers. The significance of reindeer grazing history to tundra carbon balances has not been previously studied. The present results may modify climate models that predict the effects of global warming on global carbon cycles. The study shows that it is critical to know the grazing history before the responses of tundra carbon balances to climate warming can be understood. Different tundra systems possess highly varying grazing histories as a result of past and present reindeer management practices.
Read the full story here
March 19, 2014 • Alena Gerasimova
Master in Landscape Architecture. The program focuses on the changes and challenges generated by climate change, geopolitical forces, increased industrialization and migration in Circumpolar landscapes. The education enables students, working with a faculty with long experience on Circumpolar landscapes, to influence the development and management of cities, settlements, landscapes, industrial facilities, ecosystems and infrastructure in the Circumpolar region. Students with interests in landscape design, extreme landscapes, Subarctic urbanism and exposed ecologies are encouraged to apply.
For further information and applying, please visit: The Official web-site of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design
June 7, 2013 • Philip Burgess
According to Professor Lauri Oksanen of the University of Turku, grazing by reindeer keep arctic vegetation in check, thus reducing the solar heat absorption that leads to a self-reinforcing cycle of climate change.
Snow cover and mostly barren tundra reflect large portions of the sun’s rays. When darker shrubs and trees spring up in arctic areas they absorb more energy, heating up their surroundings and the earth’s atmosphere.
Researchers in Finland have now carried out a comparison between an area in Norway where reindeer are not allowed to graze in the summer, and a similar area in Finland where grazing reindeer have kept shrubs and tree from growing.
They have found that the heat radiated by the overgrown area in Norway is at a much higher level.
“The heat difference between what happens there and in the Finnish area during three spring months, March, April and May, would be enough to melt a cubic kilometre of ice. That is no small matter,” explains Professor Lauri Oksanen.
April 7, 2010 • Philip Burgess
In a long interview with the newspaper Vedomosti, the new (ish) Kola Peninsula regional Governor Dmitry Dmitriyenko said that his administration plans to establish 100-200 km wide zones for reindeer herds. This will help raise productivity, the governor argues.
Today, reindeer herds migrate over major parts of the peninsula and unlike reindeer husbandry in the neighbouring Finland, fences are not widely used there.
Governor Dmitriyenko says the changing climate makes it increasingly difficult to gather the herds at slaughter time because the rivers now freeze later than before.
Although this was a small piece in a lengthy article, were such a plan to be carried out, it would dramatically alter reindeer husbandry in the region. Interestingly, the Governor identifies climate change as being the reason for the introduction of fencing while experience from Scandinavia show that fencing is more related to herd control by the authorities and reduced flexibility for herders. Fencing also has a dramatic impact on the landscape and breaks up traditional migratory patterns.
March 24, 2010 • Philip Burgess
In a billowing cloud of white, Russia’s Arctic herders drive thousands of panting and wild-eyed reindeer through the knee-deep snow to the first slaughter this year.
But warm winters in recent years have forced herders here in the far northern Kola Peninsula to delay for months the rounding up of their reindeer from the vast tundra — at great economic cost.
“We’ve had to move the slaughter forwards from December to February because the lakes haven’t frozen over,” said Vladimir Filippov, an ethnic Komi herder who heads the farm Tundra, the main employer in this remote village.
These reindeer have lost roughly 20 percent of their weight during the extra months spent in the tundra while herders waited for the ice to thicken enough for the forced migration.
“It’s not a small but a huge problem for us and a constant worry,” said Filippov.
With meat sold at 4.34-6.01 dollars per kilogram (2.2 pounds), it can amount to a loss of up to 167,000 dollars per year. “That’s a huge loss,” Filippov sighed.
December 16, 2009 • Philip Burgess
Russian scientists have doubts over whether global warming is here to stay and whether it’s man made. But for the Saami in Russia’s north, the mild winters already pose a threat to their traditional way of life. All around the Arctic, the effects of a temperature rise are visible, and native inhabitants of the tundras in Europa, Asia and North America are struggling with the new reality.
That’s also true for the Saami reindeer herders on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, an area bordering on Norway and Finnish Lapland. But, in Russia, climate change is not a hot-button issue, nor is much attention being paid to the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen. Russian scientists say they have no evidence that global warming is a long-term trend, and doubt whether it is a man-made phenomenon.
November 17, 2009 • Philip Burgess
by Catherine Marciano. JARFJORD, Norway (AFP) – On Norway’s border with Russia, the consequences of climate change are affecting the reindeer population as rising temperatures hit food stocks and industry growth eats into vital grazing land.
“Over the past three years, I’ve had to give some hay to my 800 reindeer during the coldest months. It’s more expensive and it gives me more work,” said Jan Egil Trasti, a reindeer herder from the native Sami people.
The reason: the lichen his animals graze on has become tougher to find as winter temperatures rise. The snow thaws, and along with rain, then freezes anew — covering the ground in layers impervious to all but the most tenacious reindeer.
October 22, 2009 • Philip Burgess
(By Luke Harding, The Guardian) For 1,000 years the indigenous Nenets people have herded their reindeer along the Yamal peninsula. But their survival in this remote region of north-west Siberia is under serious threat from climate change as Russia’s ancient permafrost melts.
t is one of the world’s last great wildernesses, a 435-mile long peninsula of lakes and squelching tundra stretching deep into the Arctic Ocean. For 1,000 years the indigenous Nenets people have migrated along the Yamal peninsula. In summer they wander northwards, taking their reindeer with them, across a landscape of boggy ponds, rhododendron-like shrubs and wind-blasted birch trees. In winter they return southwards.
March 2, 2009 • Philip Burgess
The state Swedish television network SVT recently released a 6 part documentary that is a tour of various peoples and places in the Arctic that are already being affected by climate change, with a Swedish Sami host. While a number of such documentaries are being made these days, what marks this one out is its look at reindeer husbandry in the Nenets Autonomus Okrug and that the host is also an indigenous person. In Part 3, the series visits reindeer herders Nikolai and Arseny and their family on the tundra who speak of dramatically changed weather condisitons last year. You can watch the section on the web here, in Sami and Russian with Swedish subtitles. There is excellent camerawork. Incidentally, this family were one of the first in the region to adapt private reindeer ownership in the 1990’s when the former Soviet Union collapsed.
January 7, 2009 • Philip Burgess
(Pic & Story NPI) In what researchers described as an extremely rare event, a polar bear has killed a reindeer on the islands of Svalbard late last year. According to a report from the Norwegian Polar Institute. The Polar Bear, a female, is one with a satellite transmitter attached, allowing researchers to monitor the bears movements throughout the year – and locate the exact point of the incident: 79.129 degrees North and 16.219 degrees East. According to researcher Jon Aars, if there are many years of poor ice conditions, polar bears may continue to move inland for prey and in doing so offer clues as to how they might adapt to a warming Arctic.
October 31, 2008 • Philip Burgess
During the recent EALAT Information workshop (September 2007) and seminar on the Yamal Peninsula, a series of interviews were made with key people related to reindeer husbandry in the world’s largest reindeer husbandry region, including Sergei Haruchi, Dmitri Khorolia and Leonid Khudi. In this feature, we are reproducing the interview with Leonid Khudi, who is Nenets, from a reindeer herding bankground, is the EALAT project coordinator for Yamal, is the Chair of the Reindeer Herders Union of Yamal and works for the regional administration.
Let us have a short talk about the work shop, about climate change, about the future perspectives of reindeer herding, oil and gas and what you would like to mention. These last days we had some very unique experiences in the tundra and celebrated the 80-years anniversary of Yar-Sale. What do you think about the importance of our co-operation and the organizing of work shops like we have done with EALAT. You are responsible for EALAT in Yamal.
May 14, 2008 • Philip Burgess
(Source – Ed Struzik, The Province, see below) Warm, wet winters and hot, dry summers reduce numbers. In the summer of 1996, biologist Frank Miller was flying along the coast of Bathurst Island searching for Peary caribou, found only in the High Arctic of Canada, when he spied a dark spot on the sea ice.
Flying in for a look, he could see these animals were not the caribou he was looking for. They were muskoxen. The circle of animals didn’t bolt. Miller got the pilot to land a few hundred metres away. Even as he approached on foot, the herd didn’t flinch. As he moved closer, it dawned on him — they were all dead. The animals were frozen stiff and leaning against each other like statues.
“It was one of the most strange and gruesome things I’d ever seen as a biologist,” the Edmonton researcher recalls.
“They were probably on their last legs and starving when they headed out across the sea ice searching for better food conditions on another island.”
May 12, 2008 • Philip Burgess
Sami reindeer herder Olav Mathis Eira was in London recently to make a direct appeal to the British Prime Minister.
“Climate change is threatening our economy as reindeer herders. Because this is part of our traditional way of life, if the economy goes, probably the entire Sami culture would go with it.”
The story was covered in the London Independent,
May 5, 2008 • Philip Burgess
(Picture Eric Post) Global warming may be the reason for a decrease in the number of caribou calves being born in West Greenland, U.S. researchers said.Biologist Eric Post said data show the timing of peak food availability no longer corresponds to the timing of caribou births, the university said Friday in release.
The study, conducted in collaboration with Mads Forchhammer at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, will be published in the July issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
With temperatures rising, pregnant females find that the spring plants on which they depend to survive have already begun to decline in nutritional value. Post said the plants are peaking dramatically earlier.
“Spring temperatures at our study site in West Greenland have risen by more than 4 degrees Celsius over the past few years,” he said. “As a result, the timing of plant growth has advanced, but calving has not.”
Source: Copyright 2008, United Press International
Date: May 2, 2008
February 12, 2008 • Philip Burgess
February 6th is Sami National Day in all the countries where the Sami live and is a day for a pan Sami celebration of the Sami people. The day in Sweden was overshadowed for some by the crisis that persists in reindeer pastures – many reindeer herders have been forced to apply for aid to feed their reindeer after much pastures in the region were declared a disaster. According to a report in UPI, the Swedish Sametinget is reported as saying that the situation has not been this bad since 1936. Samebyarna flaggar för svältkatastrof bland renhjordarna även i år. Kravet är att sametinget får behålla 12 miljoner kronor som buffert för stödutfordring.Men regeringen har ännu inte givit något besked. LT Östersund
February 1, 2008 • Philip Burgess
In a speech ‘Climate Change in a Polar Perspective’, in Beijing on 30th January, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said,
Firstly, Arctic climate change will alter the flora and fauna of the region. This will have serious consequences, not least for indigenous peoples. Traditional reindeer herding and the way of life of these peoples will be harder to sustain
You can read the full speech here (English).