Since 1994 the number of reindeer on Svalbard is nearly doubled. At the same time the average summer temperature has gone up two degrees.
“It is astonishing that only two more degrees has led to such an increase of the stock” says Professor Erik Ropstad of the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, who has been studying reindeer on Svalbard for nearly 20 years. The rise in temperature has led to more vegetation and plenty of food for the animals, he says to Svalbardposten.
The last winter was abnormally warm with temperatures 11°C above the normal from January to the end of March. The main settlement Longyearbyen had 90 millimeters of precipitation in January-March, nearly twice the normal. Ny-Ålesund, the world’s northernmost public settlement, had 97 percent of the normal annual precipitation during the first 80 days of the year.
Svalbard reindeer is the smallest subspecies of reindeer and is exclusive to this area. Reindeer were hunted very heavily on Svalbard from 1860 to 1925, and the population was markedly reduced. The hunt was stopped except for scientific sampling between 1925 and 1983. This period of protection resulted in recovery in numerical terms as well as the surviving reindeer spreading to occupy their former range. From 1983 onwards, controlled hunting of Svalbard reindeer has been permitted, the Norwegian Polar Institute’s web site reads.