A team led by Nicholas Tyler of the UiT The Arctic University of Norway has recorded the total number of reindeer (including all births and all deaths) in the valley of Adventdalen in central Spitsbergen each year since 1979. The results show that the population has increased in close parallel with winter warming over the past 35 years. In the early 1980s, it stood at around 600 animals; more recently, it has averaged around 1,000.
‘Winter warming is widely held to be a major threat to reindeer across the Arctic, but in Svalbard, global warming has had the opposite effect,’ Tyler said.
This year, the study was assisted by scientists from the University of Manchester, including Jonathan Codd, the university’s programme director for zoology. ‘The results revealed a remarkably successful year,’ Codd said. ‘Despite very high numbers in 2013, the population increased by almost 30 per cent and reached a new record of just more than 1,300 animals.’
The team recorded very little winter mortality, but a high number of births, with more than 300 calves in the valley, the second highest number ever recorded.