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Will reindeer survive global warming?

Some herds likely to lose most of their habitat as climate warms

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Reindeer are adapted to life in cold, snowy climates. Photo courtesy USGS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Digging deep into the genetics of caribou populations, scientists said the animals could disappear from most of their range in southern and eastern Canada in the next 60 years, as climate change fragments habitat.

The study, published Dec. 15 in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that caribou populations in the most climatically stable areas had the greatest genetic diversity. Climate projections, combined with the new genetic data, suggest the animals won’t fare well in the coming in decades.

“Caribou can respond to habitat change in three ways,” said Kris Hundertmark, co-author and wildlife biologist-geneticist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “They can move to new, suitable habitat, adapt to the changed habitat or die. Continue reading

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Colorado: Reindeer lost, reindeer found

Tracking effort pays off, as police officers corral escaped critter

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Runaway no more … Photo courtesy Dillon Police Department.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Rudolf may be the most famous reindeer of all, but another one of Santa’s sled-pulling critters may become a local legend in Dillon after escaping from his corral during the town’s tree-lighting ceremony Thursday evening. Continue reading

Arctic rain-on-snow events tilt the ecological playing field

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion.Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology

Arctic foxes in Svalbard will feel the effects of global warming, as rain-on-snow events change the abundance of prey animals. Photo by Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology.

Norwegian researchers document cascading environmental impacts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Norwegian scientists say they’ve observed how climate-linked extreme weather events have affected not just single species, but an entire ecological community in the Arctic.

Rain-on-snow events caused synchronized population fluctuations among all vertebrate species in a relatively simple high arctic community, the scientists said after documenting how populations of three species crashed at the same time.

These findings, published in the Jan. 18 issue of Science, may be a bellwether of the radical changes in ecosystem stability that could result from anticipated future increases in extreme events.  Continue reading

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