Challenges of Reindeer Herding

The key challenges of reindeer herding are the growing pressure from industrial land usage, and the damages that are caused by large carnivores and humans.

Reindeer is an inseparable part of the culture and nature of Northern

Reindeer herding is dependent on large pasture areas and grazing cycles that formulate around them. In the past decades, there have been significant changes in the land usage in Northern Finland. Building, forestry, mines and wind farms fragment the large pasture areas to smaller and separated areas. This has an influence on reindeer herding. It is not only about the area that the different forms of land usage needs. It is also about the multiplying effects that come with buildings, building phases, felling and other. According to research, the masses of lichen are affected by the several different issues related to the reindeer herding, land usage and local climate (Kumpula et al. 2014).

Nowadays, the felling cycle of the commercial forests is so quick that there is no time for beard moss (‚Äúluppo‚ÄĚ) to grow in the trees. Beard moss in the trees is very important food for reindeer in the spring. Particularly if they cannot dig through the thick and icy snow layers. Even though beard moss grows high up in the trees and seems to be unreachable for reindeer, it still is important because of the spring wind that drops pieces of it on the snow. Also, the more there is snow, the higher reindeer are able to reach.

The disappearance of the trees and forests with beard moss has a significant influence  on the need to feed reindeer in the winter. It forces reindeer to focus only on digging food under snow. Felling also influences the coverage of lichen growing in the ground. The best areas for lichen are found from the old forests in the reservation areas or similar. In the areas, where trees have already been cut, the lichen is overgrown by hay and other plants.

“Lichen requires light. In dense forests lichen turns into moss.” Reindeer pasture committee 1914.¬†

The amount of lichen has diminished also in Southern Finland between 1950 and 1995, already 57 percent. The most likely reason for this is eutrophication due to commercial forestry. Lichen needs light and when the coverage of the top of the trees rises over 60 percent, the moss overcomes the lichen.


Reindeer EIA

Reindeer Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a comprehensive guide for taking reindeer herding into consideration when planning land usage projects.