Scientists say 200 Arctic reindeer died last year due to climate change

Two hundred reindeer starved to death last winter on a remote Arctic archipelago, with researchers in Norway saying that climate change contributed to their starvation.

The Norwegian Polar Institute said changes in the Arctic led to the reindeer starving, Norwegian news outlet NRK reported. The institute has been studying the subspecies of reindeer, home to the Svalbard archipelago, which lies between the Norwegian mainland and North Pole, for decades.

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“In the last 30 to 40 years, we have seen that the climate changes faster than natural reasons alone seem to be able to explain. Svalbard is among the areas that mark climate change most, which gets consequences for the animals living here,” said one of the institute’s researcher’s, Ashild Onvik Pedersen, in a Facebook post, according to the website’s translation. “It’s scary to find so many dead animals.”

The institute said this was the deadliest winter for the animals — due to heavier and more frequent rain, The New York Times reported. 

“Once you get the rain on the top of the snow, most often it completely freezes to solid ice that completely covers the plants,” Pedersen told the Times. 

The frost prevents the animals from reaching the usual vegetation. 

Longer and warmer summers, another impact of climate change, has also increased the reindeer population, making for greater competitions of food and leading to further risk of starvation, the Times reported.

Svalbard reindeer do not live in herds and tend to be stationary, but Pedersen told the newspaper that GPS signals used by researchers have shown the reindeer to venture from their typical grazing areas.

Pedersen and other researchers have been warning of the impacts climate change would have on Svalbard’s wildlife as far back as 2013, the Times noted, citing an article published in Science.

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