University of Oulu

Productivity of the semi-domesticated reindeer (Rangifer t. tarandus L.) stock and carrying capacity of pastures in Finland during 1960–1990’s

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Author: Kumpula, Jouko1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
2Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, Reindeer Research Station
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2001
Publish Date: 2001-11-12
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB 210), Linnanmaa, on December 15th, 2001, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Professor Öje Danell
Professor Eigil Reimers


Although the present day management of semi-domesticated reindeer (Rangifer t. tarandus L.) and its operational environment have changed from the past, knowledge of the ecological mechanisms typical of traditional herding is still important. The main objective of this study was to examine factors related to stock productivity and carrying capacity of pastures in the Finnish semi-domesticated reindeer management area during 1960–1990’s in order to clarify the basis of the present management strategies in Finland.

In the Oraniemi district, before 1987, calf production was more affected by the snow conditions of the previous winter, than the weather conditions of the previous summer. Slaughtering mass of calves was more affected by the weather and precipitation in spring and summer than the snow conditions of the previous winter. Thick snow cover and unfrozen soil in early winter also probably affect the quality of natural winter food of reindeer by favouring the growth of certain micro fungi on pastures.

Before the mid-1990’s in the northern part of the management area, calf production decreased and its variability increased between the districts when reindeer densities on forest and heath land increased, amount of lichen (Cladonia spp.) pastures per reindeer decreased and condition of these pastures deteriorated. Variability in calf production increased especially when the amount of arboreal lichen (Alectoria, Bryoria spp.) pastures per reindeer decreased. The slaughtering mass of reindeer decreased when reindeer densities on all pastures increased. Intensive calf slaughtering increased reindeer stock productivity although it was density dependent. Because of intensified feeding, reindeer densities on winter pastures did not affect stock productivity in the whole management area between 1993 and 1999. Stock productivity could be increased markedly by feeding. Still, slaughtering mass and meat production per reindeer decreased when reindeer densities on summer pastures increased.

In the Finnish grazing system, reindeer densities should have remained well below 10 reindeer/km² lichen range for maintaining lichen ranges in a good condition. The average lichen biomass of lichen ranges in the management area in the mid-1990’s was 13% of the lichen biomass at the maximum production. Lichen ranges should have been ungrazed for an average 18 years to recover to the maximum production. The time needed for the lichen ranges to recover to a good condition, would have been 7 years.

This study showed that the amount and condition of pastures had a fundamental part in the productivity of Finnish reindeer stock. Calf slaughtering and feeding were effective ways to increase and stabilize stock productivity in the situation where the economic carrying capacity of winter ranges has obliviously been exceeded due to overgrazing and the effects caused by the other land use. This has made reindeer management more and more dependent on feeding. Improvements of the state and condition of winter ranges would only be possible during a long period by regulating reindeer stock size, developing pasture rotation and protecting reindeer pastures from the other land use.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-6555-6
ISBN Print: 951-42-6554-8
Issue: 375
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2001. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.