A Troubling Decline in the Caribou Herds of the Arctic

Yale Environment 360 – But the icing problem is only one of a host of warming-related effects now plaguing caribou. In a paper published last year in Global Change Biology, Vors and Boyce detailed these impacts. As spring arrives earlier and earlier, “the flush of highly nutritious plant growth” has advanced. Yet caribou reproduction and calving are not occurring earlier, meaning the calves are born past the peak of prime forage availability. In addition, the lichen and other tundra plants favored by caribou are gradually being replaced by shrubs and trees that are advancing northward as the Arctic warms. Vladislav Nuvano, an expert on the history of reindeer herding in Chukotka, in the Russian Far East, told me recently that reindeer herders there are seeing woody shrubs expand at the expense of lichens and other reindeer food.

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