reindeer grazing

Reindeer are helping to slow down climate change by grazing on Arctic tundra

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).

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