Reindeer Become Smaller; Global Warming Is To Blame

First Posted: Dec 14, 2016 03:07 AM EST

Despite the fact that the number of reindeer is increasing, they are becoming smaller, thanks to climate change, a new study found.

According to a 16-year survey on the arctic Norweigan island of Svalbard, the scientists found that the reindeer have declined in weight by a staggering 12 percent over the past 20 years. The reduction in their weight is linked to the rising temperatures in the area as a result of global warming.

Presented at a meeting of the British Ecological Society in Liverpool, the scientists explained how the rising temperatures have deprived female reindeer of the needed nutrients and food needed during the important phases of pregnancy. The study is an expansion of an earlier study published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Effects Of Rising Temperatures

Usually, snow in Svalbard covers the ground for about eight months of the year. Grass will grow around June and July. However, as the summer temperatures increased by about 1.5 degrees Celcius, pastures have become more productive, giving female deer to gain more weight and become more fertile to conceive more calves.

Over the past years, the increasing temperatures brought greater rainfall during the winter. When rain touches the snow, it freezes and prevents the reindeer in accessing the food below. This leads to female reindeer becoming starved during gestation, giving birth to lighter calves, The Telegraph reports.

Though the size of the reindeer dropped, the size of the Arctic reindeer population is booming to flourishing plant life in the summers. This is because they are more likely to conceive in autumn and a bountiful summer means having more fertile and healthier females.

"Warmer summers are great for reindeer but winters are getting increasingly tough," Professor Steve Albon, an ecologist at the James Hutton Institute, told Reuters.

One animal has benefited from weakened and smaller reindeer -- the Arctic fox. With the increased number of reindeer, their population has also increased over the past years.

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