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The Impact of Overhunting on the Migratory Patterns of Caribou and Reindeer

The world's tundras are highly arid, with limited annual precipitation and high average temperatures. Anthropogenic perturbations and climate change, however, pose risks to these Arctic and alpine ecosystems.

The Arctic tundra is home to several species of wildlife, including the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), polar bear (Ursus maritimus), gray wolf (Canis lupus), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), snow geese (Anser caerulescens), and musk ox (Ovibos moschatus). Rising temperatures are thawing the permafrost soil and plant materials. Soil bacteria then degrade this carbon into carbon dioxide and methane, contributing significantly to the release of these greenhouse gasses into the environment. Physical damage, such as lorry tyre tracks, might prevent the tundra from recovering for years.

The majestic antlers of reindeer are the largest of any deer species in relation to their bodies, making them easily distinguishable. They travel in herds of up to a hundred thousand individuals over thousands of miles annually in quest of food. They play a crucial role in the Arctic ecology because they provide food and income for local people and can alter plant life through grazing. Nonetheless, there has been a severe decline in reindeer (also known as caribou) populations in the Arctic. The number of reindeer and caribou has decreased by 56% since the 1990s. An estimated 4.7 million animals have been reduced to 2.1 million, a loss of 2.6 million.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its latest Arctic Report Card on Tuesday, which found that "five herds," out of 22 monitored "in the Alaska-Canada region," have decreased by more than 90 percent and show no indication of recovery. There have been record-low numbers of certain herds ever since accurate records were kept.

Caribou and reindeer are both examples of the same species. The Rangifer tarandus is a species that can be found in the wild. The North American population of Rangifer tarandus is known as caribou, while the European and Siberian populations are called reindeer. Although they are wild by nature, they are sometimes domesticated and used to pull sleds and carriages.

Caribou (reindeer) and other native species of the Arctic tundra are in decline as a result of climate change, which is also increasing the incidence of parasites and diseases and damaging food sources. Nonetheless, other species, such as shrubs and numerous species of the spider family Lycosidae, are thriving.

Common in the southern half of the United States, the red fox is gradually expanding its range northward onto the tundra in the northern section of the country, where it will compete with the Arctic fox for resources. Although only a small number of invasive species have made their way into the Arctic thus far, climate change is projected to boost their chances of success. Nevertheless, human intervention, whether local or global, can alter the balance: The rising population of snow geese poses a threat to the tundra nesting grounds they rely on since they have become accustomed to grazing on farmlands rather than in the wild throughout their migration routes.


It is essential to reduce harmful, planet-warming pollution by moving away from fossil fuels if we are to protect the arctic habitats of Earth. Protected zones and safe havens for endangered animals and their ecosystems are established, and the production of hazardous materials is limited or banned. The Arctic Council, an organization that serves as a forum for the governments of Arctic states, has established a task group to look into and control the spread of invasive species.

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