Graphic shows declining numbers of reindeer and where their populations reside around the Arctic Circle.
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ENVIRONMENT

Declining reindeer numbers

By Ninian Carter

December 12, 2018 - The population of wild reindeer in the Arctic has crashed by more than half, according to a new report released at the American Geophysical Research Union meeting in Washington D.C..

The report into the effects of climate change in the Arctic revealed that the population of caribou (the name given to reindeer in North America) has fallen from 4.7 million to around 2.1 million animals in the last two decades.

Changing weather patterns and vegetation are making the Arctic tundra a much less hospitable place for caribou, with some herds having shrunk by more than 90% – a drastic decline that makes recovery unlikely.

Increased drought due to warming climate is causing the change in vegetation, with taller plants becoming dominant and out-competing the ground level lichen that caribou like to eat.

Large, oppressive numbers of insects are plaguing the animals, causing them to spend most of their energy and time either getting the insects off of themselves or finding places where they can hide from them.

Rain is also a major concern, often falling on snowy ground and leading to hard, frozen icy layers covering the grazing tundra. The Caribou simply cannot push their noses through the ice in order to reach their food supply.

PUBLISHED: 12/12/2018; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Associated Press
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