The first ever comprehensive survey of caribou worldwide (known as reindeer in Europe) has found that the species has suffered a staggering decline. Researchers from the University of Alberta discovered that the caribou population has fallen 60 percent in half as many years.
The study published in Global Change Biology points to global warming and industrial development as the reasons behind the decline. Climate change has transformed the boreal and Arctic ecosystems in ways that are negatively affecting the caribou’s feeding habitats, while industrial development has deforested large swathes of the boreal forest.
The caribou, also known as a reindeer. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Many people depend on healthy and abundant caribou populations for food and income, according to the researchers.
Caribou are currently listed as Not Threatened by the IUCN Red List, however this study shows that while they may not yet face extinction, the species’ abundance—vital for ecosystems and human populations—is endangered.
The findings comes less than two weeks after another study found significant declines in migrating herbivores worldwide.
Migrations of large mammals in serious declines, six have vanished entirely
(06/03/2009) Watch any nature documentary and it’s sure to include pulse-pounding footage of large herbivores migrating across African plains, Asian steppe, or the Arctic tundra. The images have become iconic: wildebeest forging a crocodile-inhabited river, caribou breaking through snow fields, Saiga running over tall grass. Despite such images of plenty, migrations are declining across the world, and in six cases have disappeared entirely.
Reindeer, a symbol of the holidays, is under increasing threat
(12/26/2008) Reindeer are beloved in the holiday season for the mystical role they play in guiding Santa from the North Pole to the world’s chimneys. However, according to a new book, reindeer, more commonly referred to as caribou, face increasing pressures from a variety of sources. The new book entitled, Caribou and the North: A Shared Future, draws an intimate portrait of the only deer species where both male and females sport horns, while outlining the dangers which may lead these unique animal to become globally endangered.
Half of the world’s mammal species in decline (update)
(10/06/2008) Half of the world’s mammal species are in decline, according to a new assessment of the planet’s 5,487 mammals.