New Research Could Help Reindeer Herders Monitor their Grazing Lands

Ann-Louise Rönestål Ek, SR JamtlandIn a new thesis, a researcher has presented a new way for reindeer herders to inventory and evaluate the condition of their grazing lands.

Anna Olofsson is a postgraduate student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and she has conducted research in adaptive management – a method for evaluating an ecosystem.

“This method has become more and more popular, such as in wildlife management for example,” says Anna Olofsson. “The ecosystem can be constantly monitored, changes made early and appropriate measures taken.”

In Scandinavia, Finland and Russia, reindeer herding in small rural municipalities is often the main source of income, primarily for Sámi families.

The reindeer are semi-tame, kept in herds and watched over by herders.

In many places, wild reindeer have in principle become extinct.

By measuring factors such as access to lichen and reindeer carcass weight, Anna Olofsson’s method can be used to draw conclusions about the condition of the ecosystem, and whether there is anything in the system that is not as it should.

If for example, a reindeer owner points out that something has happened with the grazing lands based on observations of reindeer decreasing in weight, this would carry more weight with outsiders if the claim could be supported by a scientific method.

Rolf Anker Ims is a professor in Arctic ecology at Tromsö University and is familiar with Anna Olofsson’s research. He says the results that Anna Olofsson has produced are important for being able to understand the condition of grazing lands.

“She’s contributed to establishing important indicators of grazing land condition,” says Professor Ims.

Adaptive management is a new way for reindeer herders to scientifically understand their grazing lands. Even though it can take a long time to initiate the inventory that adaptive management requires, Anna Olofsson hopes nonetheless that the Sámi reindeer herding communities will adopt the new method.

“Both because I discovered changes myself and how they should be handled, as well as because of competing activities.”

Radio Sweden

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