On Monday, December 12th, researchers issued a rather odd warning saying that the reindeer are shrinking. According to the scientists’ findings, an adult reindeer’s weight has dropped by approximately 12 percent over the last 15 years.
The study focused primarily on individuals from Svalbard region in the Norwegian Arctic. The scientific community says that the reindeer are losing weight more likely due to the negative effects of the global warming. The findings have been presented at the British Ecological Society in Liverpool.
According to the paper, a reindeer who reached maturity in 2010 weighed roughly 105 pounds. At the same time, mature reindeer from 1994 weighed no less than 120 pounds.
The study leader, Professor Steve Albon of the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, says that weight is an important factor when it comes to the reindeer’ reproduction and a key ingredient in their survival. Hence, any negative fluctuations in weight, even though only of 12 percent, may prove fatal for the reindeer population.
Previous Studies and Discoveries
Several other studies on the matter were performed in the past with all of them pointing towards the same conclusion. Hence, when researchers measured an adult specimen earlier this year, in April, they discovered that the individual weighed less than 110 pounds. In light of these findings, the scientists concluded that global warming was not only affecting one or two individuals but was threatening the whole population.
Moreover, the findings showed that there was a 5-degrees increase in the land surface temperatures in 2015 in the Arctic. This is the highest escalation recorded since the last century when the first records emerged.
The Effects of Global Warming on the Reindeer Population
It is only logical that when temperatures rise, snowflakes turn into raindrops. When water falls to the ground, the rain melts the layer of snow which then freezes over in low temperatures. Hence, the newly formed ice sheet prevents the reindeer from feeding on lichen. As lichen makes for the bulk of their diet during winter, the less they get, the faster they lose weight.
However, this is not the only negative effect global warming has on the reindeer population. According to the British Ecological Society, the shortage of food will cause females to abort their calves, or, in the best-case scenario, give birth to underdeveloped lighter individuals.
As the study states, as many as 61,000 reindeer have starved to death in 2013 alone in Siberia, on the Yamal Peninsula.
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