As reindeer go, the animals living on Svalbard might not be Santa’s first choice. They’re a smaller subspecies of their common mainland relatives, and to save energy they basically never run. But because they were nearly exterminated from Svalbard around 1900 — and were then protected in 1925 — the animals provide unique insights into how conservation can help species thrive.
Climate change is the big wild card when it comes to the survival of many Arctic species. A new study shows that climate change will be both good and bad for Svalbard barnacle geese populations — although the balance may tip depending upon the severity of future temperature increases and how other species react.
Climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme winter rain events in the Arctic. These kinds of winter storms on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago can cause a thick cap of ice to cover the forage that reindeer eat. You’d think that more frequent rain-on-snow events would spell the end for these arctic animals — but you’d be wrong.