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Study reveals why reindeer are under threat

Scientists fear is that Santa's antlered helpers will be pushed out of their homes and the whole ecosystem will suffer.


A young couple taking a baby reindeer for walk
(Altrendo Images via Shutterstock)

By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Reindeer in Scandinavia are under threat.

Only four percent of their grazing land remains untouched by human encroachment, a new study reveals.

Intensive forestry, outdoor tourism, road and railway traffic, mining, and wind farms are all contributing to this loss of land.

A reindeer pulling a senior couple on a sleigh
(Altrendo Images via Shutterstock)

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, looked at Norway, Sweden and Finland and concluded that around 85 percent of the region is affected by one type of human activity, while 60 percent is exposed to multiple forms of human intervention.

Marianne Stoessel, a Ph.D. student in Landscape, Environment and Geomatics at Stockholm University, and lead author of the study, said: “In northern Fennoscandia, we are lucky to still have one the oldest herding systems in Europe, where reindeer can roam freely over 40 percent of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

"Or at least, they used to. With the rising human presence taking place on multiple fronts, the resilience of northern pastoralism is under threat.”

Male reindeer walking on a national road in Jämtland, Sweden. (Stockholm University via SWNS)

Dr. Regina Lindborg, a professor from the department of physical geography and quaternary geology at Stockholm University, co-author of the study and coordinator of the project, said: "Grazing is a key process for maintaining plant biodiversity, even in the mountains.

"So it was important for us to study the extent of these cumulative pressures with having the summer pastures in mind, where grazing takes place."

While human interaction is a huge threat to reindeer grazing in the north, they do face other pressures such as predators and climate change.

A young couple feeding a baby reindeer
(Altrendo Images via Shutterstock)

Reindeer herders, policymakers and the scientific community are all aware of the issues.

Ms. Stoessel said: "What is new is that we finally managed to get an overview of these pressures over the whole area.

"This was not easy, as the different land-uses act at different scales and can be very dynamic, so can be the predators and the effects of climate change on grazing."

The fear is that these pressures will create a huge change in landscape and vegetation in this area, minimizing biodiversity, and pushing reindeer out of their homes and into much smaller grazing areas.

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