Reindeer Grazing Is Good For Plant Diversity

Climate warming reduces the number of plant species in the tundra, but plant-eating animals, such as reindeer and voles, can turn this negative effect into something positive. “By eating tall and wide-leaved plants, reindeer can increase light availability and thus allow more plant species to co-exist and benefit from warmer conditions,” says Elina Kaarlejärvi, post-doctoral researcher at Umeå University, who led the study. Earlier studies suggest that tundra plant diversity will decrease in response to a warmer climate. However, it is important to know whether the response depends on the abundance of grazing animals, particularly reindeer, voles and lemmings, which are very common in tundra ecosystems. Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden, and Oulu University in Finland, tested this through experimental warming of vegetation on tundra meadows with and without reindeer and voles. “We found that the warming increased the number of species in plots that were grazed, because it enabled small tundra plants to appear and grow there. But when we fenced reindeer, voles and lemmings out, vegetation became denser and the light was limited. As a result, many small and slowly-growing plant species were lost,” says Elina Kaarlejärvi. The researchers investigated what species appeared and disappeared from the study plots over the course of five years. By doing so, t

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One thought on “Reindeer Grazing Is Good For Plant Diversity

  1. Climates have changed for millennia.Slow change allows everything to adjust as long as the animals involved are still in place. It is when we change the population of animals that disruptions occur.

    Strictly my opinion, not scientific.

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