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International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017
Salekhard

Understanding reindeer effects on the willow growth and recruitment in a landslide area on the Yamal tundra.

A. Skarin1, T. Kumpula2, M. Macias-Fauria3 and B.C. Forbes4

1Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden; 2Department of Geographical and Historical studies, University of Eastern Finland, Finland; 3School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; 4Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, FI-96101 Rovaniemi, Finland;

(1anna.skarin@slu.se; 2timo.kumpula@uef.fi; 3max.maciasfauria@ouce.ox.ac.uk; 4bforbes@ulapland.fi)

UNDERSTANDING REINDEER EFFECTS ON WILLOW GROWTH AND RECRUITMENT IN A LANDSLIDE- RICH AREA ON THE YAMAL TUNDRA

Rapid climate change in Arctic regions has been linked to the expansion of trees and shrubs: the tundra is becoming greener. Reindeer have been proposed as potentially being able to suppress this greening through grazing. Quantifying reindeer use of different vegetation types in relation to landscape topography can help us understand reindeer impact on the growth of woody taxa (e.g. Salix spp.) and their recruitment in naturally denuded landslide areas (i.e. active layer detachment slides). This is important in order to project future patterns of greening, albedo, snow capture, and the overall resilience of tundra rangelands under further predicted climate change. Here we show preliminary results of reindeer habitat use in a tundra region of West Siberia, Russia estimated from pellet-group counts. In July 2013 and 2014, we counted pellets within 322 15m2 plots, over a 30km2 landslide-rich area on Yamal Peninsula. In 2013, the plots were established and we removed old pellets from the plots. Salix leaves and young twigs comprise an important source of forage for migratory reindeer. Our results show high use by the reindeer of dwarf shrub (ridge-top) tundra: exposed ridges provide insect relief during summer when wind is sufficient, and willows on ridge-tops tend to be low erect or prostrate forms with strong evidence of grazing and trampling. In contrast, more concave areas (e.g. old landslides) with tall Salix were used less by reindeer, which were observed browsing in tall willow thickets only during cool weather (e.g. <6°C) with high winds

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