November 13, 2009

Global Warming Hits Reindeer Of Norway Hard

The penalty of the global climate change has hit Norway's reindeer populace as warming temperatures harm food stocks and industry expansion gobbles up grazing land for the creatures.

"Over the past three years, I've had to give some hay to my 800 reindeer during the coldest months. It's more expensive and it gives me more work," Jan Egil Trasti, a Norwegian reindeer herder, told AFP.

This occurs because the lichen the animals feed on is becoming scarce as winter temperatures warm up. Grazing land is also vanishing as construction, pipelines, and roads cover pastures.

Trasti's nomadic relatives have herded these creatures for centuries. "I have it in my blood. I hope one of my sons will take over," Trasti said.

This month the snow has not yet covered the flowers in the North. Temperatures in this area are usually meek. In the past, when the snows have fallen, it drifts upon dry ground, but now it will land on lichen bloated with water.

In September, an investigation in the journal Science detailed the remarkable effects on animals in the Arctic due to the gradual warming that has occurred in the past 150 years.

Jonathan Colman, an authority on "reindeer ecology" at the University of Oslo, stated that occasionally "there's wet ice in the lichen. It gets into their stomachs and they can't digest the food."

To steer clear of losing valuable livestock, the herders must send the reindeer to more arid ground. A reindeer can go for $359 and its meat can sell for $10.46 per 2.2 pounds.

The International Center for Reindeer Husbandry has said it is saddened that "the herders have only a marginal influence on the development of their own traditional lands."

This is regardless of a law that "Norway was built on the territory of two people, the Sami and the Norwegians," said Christina Henriksen, who organizes an aid plan for native people in the Arctic area.

"For me, being a Sami means herding reindeer," said Trasti to AFP.

For now, reindeer populations are still maintained despite the damage of global warming, but Colman says this is because they are very strong animal.

"If reindeer weren't as adaptable, there wouldn't be any left," he said.