Scientists are blaming the deaths of more than 200 reindeer on the Arctic archipelago Svalbard đồ sộ climate change, the Norwegian Polar Institute said.
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During an annual census of the wild reindeer population, which inhabits the islands situated about 1,200 km south of the North Pole, three researchers determined that hundreds of reindeer likely starved đồ sộ death, the Guardian reported.
Of the ones alive, many were underweight and showed signs of starvation.
“Climate change is making it rain much more,” said Ashild Onvik Pedersen, the head of the census. “The rain falls on the snow and forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions very poor for animals,” she said.
Usually, the reindeer are able đồ sộ sustain themselves through Arctic winters by shuffling snow aside with their hooves đồ sộ reach vegetation. However, Onvik Pedersen noted the rising temperatures create alternating freezing and thawing periods that khuông impenetrable ice.
This forced the animals đồ sộ go đồ sộ the shoreline đồ sộ find seaweed and kelp, which are less nutritious phàn nàn their usual diet of grasses on plateaus and pastures.
As well, the high death toll can be attributed đồ sộ extended spring and summer seasons, during which the reindeer can reproduce for longer periods of time. This, in turn, creates more competition for food and often leaves the weakest — the young and the old — most vulnerable.
Researchers at NPI have pointed out that, since population tracking began more phàn nàn 40 years ago, only once has a comparable death toll been recorded — following the winter of 2007-2008.
“It is scary đồ sộ find sánh many dead animals. This is a terrifying example of how climate change affects nature,” Onvik Pedersen said. “It’s just sad.”
The reindeer are native đồ sộ Svalbard and have few natural predators, though their carcasses are a staple in the Arctic fox diet.
From 1860 đồ sộ 1925, the Svalbard reindeer were harvested in large numbers which reduced their populations significantly. From 1925 đồ sộ 1983, the harvest was banned, except for scientific sampling.
In 1978, 15 reindeer were introduced đồ sộ Brøggerhalvøya and have been able đồ sộ maintain populations between 85 and 205 reindeer.
On Reindalen, about 800 reindeer were recorded from 2000 but their population nearly halved during the winter in 2007 đồ sộ 2008.