WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Nearly 200 reindeer were found dead due to starvation in Norway’s archipelago of Svalbard.
- Scientists, who believe the animals died last winter, are blaming climate change for the deaths.
- “Climate change is making it rain much more,” one of the researchers said. “The rain falls on the snow and forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions very poor for animals.”
Nearly 200 reindeer were found dead due to starvation in Norway’s archipelago of Svalbard. Scientists, who believe the animals died last winter, are blaming climate change for the deaths.
Three researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute, a scientific agency under Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment, discovered the carcasses while conducting an annual census of the wild reindeer on the archipelago, the Guardian reported.
Ashild Onvik Pedersen, one of the researchers, told the news outlet that the high number of deaths was due to the climate crisis, which is now affecting the Arctic, twice as much as anywhere else. Temperatures at Svalbard have risen by a whopping 39 degrees Fahrenheit since 1971. That is five times faster than the global average, according to the Guardian’s report earlier this month.
“Climate change is making it rain much more,” Pedersen said. “The rain falls on the snow and forms a layer of ice on the tundra, making grazing conditions very poor for animals.”
Reindeer in Svalbard usually use their hooves to find vegetation beneath the snow during the winter season. But the layer of impenetrable ice resulting from climate change has made it difficult for the reindeer to do so. Now, there are approximately 22,000 reindeer on the archipelago. The increase in the number of reindeer has also led to competition in the same grazing areas, according to the Guardian.
The Arctic has lost nearly 2.6 million reindeer overall over the past 20 years, according to the 2018 Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The animal’s population currently stands at about 2.1 million, a big drop from the 4.7 million that was recorded in the mid-1990s.
Though the decline can partly be attributed to predators and forage availability, the NOAA’s report notes that “subsequent warmer summers also have adverse effects through increased drought, flies and parasites, and perhaps heat stress leading to increased susceptibility to pathogens and other stressors.”