According to Faculty researchers and their colleagues from The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, climate change is not threatening the reindeer of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Instead, their long-term study indicates that the population is thriving because of rising temperatures.
In one of the very few studies of animal population and climate change that has actually counted the number of animals instead of simply estimating, the research team discovered that the number of reindeer on Svalbard has increased by 30% in the last year.
Since 1979 there has been an annual census of the animals in the valley of Adventdalen, led by Dr Nicholas Tyler. Over that period the population has increased in close parallel with winter warming, growing from around 600 animals in the early 1980s to an average of around 1000 in recent years. Dr Tyler said:
“Winter warming is widely held to be a major threat to reindeer across the arctic. But, in the high arctic archipelago of Svalbard, global warming has had the opposite effect. Our data provides remarkable confirmation of this counter-intuitive observation.”
A Faculty team led by Dr Jonathan Codd and Nathan Thavarajah assisted with this summer’s reindeer census. Dr Codd said:
“The results revealed a remarkably successful year for Svalbard reindeer. Despite very high numbers in 2013, the population reached a new record of just over 1300 animals. The substantial increase in the numbers of reindeer is linked with frequent and pronounced periods of warm weather last winter.”