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Climate Change Helping Norwegian Reindeer Population Grow

Jul 16, 2014 07:20 AM EDT

Climate change might be helping Norwegian reindeer populations thrive, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester and the Norwegian arctic university in Tromsø have found that contrary to popular belief, warm climate hasn't reduced populations of reindeers in the high arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

According to researchers, the number of Svalbard reindeers has jumped by 30 percent in the last year, showing that the animals are thriving under warm climate.

The study is part of a long-term research project aimed at understanding the Svalbard reindeer population in the region. For the research, scientists have been counting the number of reindeers in the valley of Adventdalen, which is located in central Spitsbergen.

Dr Nicholas Tyler of the Norwegian Arctic University and colleagues have kept a record of the reindeer population in the area since 1979.

The population of reindeer in Svalbard increased from 600 on an average in the 1980s to about 1,000 today, researchers said.

This year, Dr Jonathan Codd, Mr Nathan Thavarajah and colleagues from the University of Manchester took part in the annual reindeer counting at Adventdalen.

According to Tyler and team, reindeer numbers have increased in the past three decades and the increase might be linked to warmer winters in the region.

"Winter warming is widely held to be a major threat to reindeer across the arctic but, in the high arctic archipelago of Svalbard global warming has had the opposite effect. Our data provides remarkable confirmation of this counter intuitive observation," Tyler said in a news release.

Researchers found that last year, over 300 calves were grazing at the study site, which is the second-highest number ever recorded.

"The substantial increase in the numbers of reindeer is linked with frequent and pronounced periods of warm weather last winter," said Dr Codd. "In February the temperature rose above freezing for six days reaching a maximum of +4.2°c and the streets of the Norwegian settlement at Longyearbyen were reported awash with melt water."

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