80,000 reindeer starving to death due to climate change
The effects of global warming are starting to take their toll on the wildlife of Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia.
According to a recent study from the journal Biology Letters, the mortality rate of reindeer around the region has alarmingly increased in recent years due to abnormally thick layers of snow and ice in their habitat, which made it impossible to gain access to vegetation.
The region, which was once considered a nomadic paradise for reindeer, has seen at least 80,000 deaths in the past decade alone.
With the ice getting thicker due to the worsening climate, scientists are projecting an even higher death toll in the coming years.
Research also showed that the icy terrain started becoming thicker and harder around 2006, which became impenetrable even for the reindeer’s sturdy hooves.
For instance, the Peninsula’s temperatures plunged to -40 degrees Fahrenheit after a 24-hour rainstorm in 2013.
At the same time, the region also suffered its highest reindeer casualties, when over 61,000, or one-quarter of the local population, perished due to harsh living conditions.
Scientist described the phenomenon as “rain-on-snow” events (ROS) which is caused by fluctuating temperatures.
The melting ice produced high levels of evaporation and humidity which, in turn, prompted heavy bouts of rain that soaked the snowy ground below. The ROS events were then followed by a sudden dip in temperature that caused the snow to freeze.
Unfortunately for Siberia, scientist have also predicted that rains will become more frequent and intense in the Yama Peninsula, as Siberia continues to warm.
The unlikely weather changes could further worsen the ROS effects, which could threaten not just local reindeer populations but also the nearby human communities as well.
Due to their recent decline, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the reindeer as a “vulnerable” species.
The IUCN has also noted a 20-percent decrease in reindeer population in Russia from 1990. Khristian Ibarrola
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