Regional effects of climate change on reindeer: a case study of the Muotkatunturi region in Finnish Lapland

S E Lee, M C Press, J A Lee, T Ingold, T Kurttila

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Few studies have investigated current climate changes for high latitude regions, and the impact of such changes on reindeer and indigenous people. previous work by other authors has identified snow and ice conditions in winter as being critical in determining the availability of forage for reindeer. Deep snow makes it difficult to access food. Lack of food weakens the herd and can reduce the allocation of nutrients to the development of the foetus in the female deer. Climate data for Lapland, northern Finland, and Karasjok, northern Norway, are examined, together with reindeer calf numbers for the period 1977 to 1994 for the Muotkatunturi region (68 degrees N 25 degrees 30'E). Between 1883 and 1993, precipitation increased but temperatures showed no clear warming or cooling trend. However, since the late 1980s, temperatures have increased. A regression analysis on the climate and reindeer data found that the warmer the winter prior to the rut, the fewer the live calves recorded the following year (r = 0.529, p < 0.05). Also, the wetter the winter prior to the rut, the fewer the calves recorded (r = 0.427, p < 0.10). In contrast, the warmer the autumn prior to their birth, the greater the number of calves recorded (r = 0.474, p < 0.10). These results suggest that as climate changes and winters become warmer and wetter with increased snowfall, calf numbers will decline. These findings have important implications for the Saami people who are heavily dependent on the reindeer for their livelihood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalPolar Research
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • SNOW
  • AGE

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