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Biol Lett. 2016 Nov;12(11). pii: 20160466.

Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia.

Author information

1
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland bforbes@ulapland.fi.
2
Geographical and Historical Studies, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland.
3
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland.
4
School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, Oxford, UK.
5
Dendrochronology Laboratory, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland.
6
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
7
Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
8
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA.
9
National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
10
Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, London, UK.
11
Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik, Vienna, Austria.
12
Geodäsie und Geoinformation, Technische Universität, Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

Sea ice loss is accelerating in the Barents and Kara Seas (BKS). Assessing potential linkages between sea ice retreat/thinning and the region's ancient and unique social-ecological systems is a pressing task. Tundra nomadism remains a vitally important livelihood for indigenous Nenets and their large reindeer herds. Warming summer air temperatures have been linked to more frequent and sustained summer high-pressure systems over West Siberia, Russia, but not to sea ice retreat. At the same time, autumn/winter rain-on-snow (ROS) events have become more frequent and intense. Here, we review evidence for autumn atmospheric warming and precipitation increases over Arctic coastal lands in proximity to BKS ice loss. Two major ROS events during November 2006 and 2013 led to massive winter reindeer mortality episodes on the Yamal Peninsula. Fieldwork with migratory herders has revealed that the ecological and socio-economic impacts from the catastrophic 2013 event will unfold for years to come. The suggested link between sea ice loss, more frequent and intense ROS events and high reindeer mortality has serious implications for the future of tundra Nenets nomadism.

KEYWORDS:

Barents and Kara seas; Nenets herders; Rangifer tarandus; West Siberia; Yamal Peninsula; climate change

PMID:
27852939
PMCID:
PMC5134033
DOI:
10.1098/rsbl.2016.0466
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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