Could Rudolph and Friends Help to Slow Down our Warming Climate?

A new research found that reindeers may play a part in slowing down climate change. They do this by reducing the height and abundance of shrubs on the Arctic tundra through grazing, eating the shrubs. The reduction in shrub height, abundance and leaf area increases the level of surface albedo, which is the amount of solar energy reflected by the Earth back into space.

The researchers used an experimental set-up of four separated areas experiencing either light or heavy grazing by reindeer. They  combined land surface computer modelling with measurements of albedo and vegetation characteristics that were taken in the field. To measure the reindeer activity they used vegetation trampling indicators and by collecting dung. They measured the abundance of vegetation, its leaf area index, the soil moisture and temperature levels, and then the albedo levels. The results were that in the areas with high densities of reindeer activity, there was less shrub abundance, in fact changing the arctic tundra vegetation. So, these reindeers grazing can slow down warming climates.

This effect is large enough that it can be regionally important.Now, herbivore management may be a a possible tool to combat future warming because most of the arctic tundra is grazed by either domesticated or wild reindeer. The impact the reindeer have varies according to their densities and effects on the vegetation levels across the whole tundra, so not all of them could be as effective.

http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/50234

 

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