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Reindeer use of low Arctic tundra correlates with landscape structure

Skarin, Anna and Verdonen, Mariana and Kumpula, Timo and Macias-Fauria, Marc and Alam, Moudud and Kerby, Jeffrey and Forbes, Bruce C. (2020). Reindeer use of low Arctic tundra correlates with landscape structure. Environmental Research Letters. 15 , 115012
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Abstract

Rapid climate change in Arctic regions is linked to the expansion of woody taxa (shrubification), and an increase in biomass as tundra becomes greener. Reindeer and caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are considered able to suppress vegetative greening through grazing and trampling. Quantifying reindeer use of different land cover types can help us understand their impact on the growth and recruitment of deciduous shrubs, many of which serve as fodder (e.g. Salix spp.), in favourable habitats, such as naturally denuded landslides in permafrost areas. Understanding the spatial distribution of reindeer pressure on vegetation is important to project future patterns of greening, albedo, snow capture, active layer development, and the overall resilience of tundra rangelands under ongoing climate change. Here we quantify reindeer habitat use within the low Arctic tundra zone of Yamal, West Siberia estimated from pellet-group counts, and also how active layer thickness (ALT) relates to reindeer use. Our results confirm intensive use by reindeer of terrain with high June-July time integrated normalised difference vegetation index, steeper slopes, ridges, upper slopes and valleys, and a preference for low erect shrub tundra. These sites also seem to have a shallower ALT compared to sites less used by reindeer, although we did not find any direct relationship between ALT and reindeer use. Low use of tall Salix habitats indicated that reindeer are unlikely to suppress the growth of already tall-erect woody taxa, while they exert maximum pressure in areas where shrubs are already low in stature, e.g. ridgetops. Reindeer ability to suppress the regrowth and expansion of woody taxa in landslide areas (i.e. concavities) seems limited, as these types were less used. Our results suggest that reindeer use of the landscape and hence their effects on the landscape correlates with the landscape structure. Future research is needed to evaluate the role and efficiency of reindeer as ecosystem engineers capable of mediating the effects of climate change.

Authors/Creators:Skarin, Anna and Verdonen, Mariana and Kumpula, Timo and Macias-Fauria, Marc and Alam, Moudud and Kerby, Jeffrey and Forbes, Bruce C.
Title:Reindeer use of low Arctic tundra correlates with landscape structure
Series Name/Journal:Environmental Research Letters
Year of publishing :2020
Volume:15
Article number:115012
Number of Pages:15
ISSN:1748-9326
Language:English
Publication Type:Journal article
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Published version
Copyright:Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 105 Earth and Related Environmental Sciences > Climate Research
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 405 Other Agricultural Sciences > Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 105 Earth and Related Environmental Sciences > Environmental Sciences (social aspects to be 507)
Keywords:Rangifer, habitat selection, woody taxa, NDVI, albedo, active layer thickness, climate change
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-109614
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-109614
Additional ID:
Type of IDID
DOI10.1088/1748-9326/abbf15
ID Code:21210
Faculty:VH - Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science
Department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Nutrition and Management
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:13 Jan 2021 13:23
Metadata Last Modified:15 Jan 2021 19:46

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