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Conference abstract, 2015

Reindeer use of Yamal tundra measured with pellet-group counts: understanding reindeer effects on willow growth and recruitment in a landslide area

Kumpula, Timo; Macias-Fauria, Marc; Forbes, Bruce C; Skarin, Anna


Rapid climate change in recent decades is a reality in Arctic regions. Trees and shrubs are expanding and the tundra is becoming greener. Reindeer have been proposed as potentially being able to suppress this greening through grazing. Quantifying reindeer use of different vegetation types in relation to landscape topography can help us understand reindeer impact on the growth of woody taxa (e.g. Salix spp.) and their recruitment in naturally denuded landslide areas (i.e. active layer detachment slides). This is important in order to project future patterns of greening, albedo, snow capture, and the overall resilience of tundra rangelands under further predicted climate change. Here we show preliminary results of reindeer habitat use in a tundra region of West Siberia, Russia estimated from pellet-group counts. In July 2013 and 2014, we counted pellets within 322 15m2 plots, over a 30km2 landslide area on Yamal Peninsula. In 2013, the plots were established and we threw old pellets out of the plots. Salix leaves and young twigs comprise an important source of forage for migratory reindeer. Our preliminary results show high use by the reindeer of dwarf shrub (ridge-top) tundra: exposed ridges provide insect relief during summer when wind is sufficient, and willows on ridge-tops tend to be low erect or prostrate forms with strong evidence of grazing and trampling. In contrast, more concave areas (e.g. old landslides) with tall Salix were used less by reindeer, which were observed browsing in tall willow thickets only during cool weather (e.g. <6°C) with high winds.

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Publisher: International Arctic Ungulate Society


Arctic Ungulate Conference