Reindeer husbandry constitutes one of the main pillars of Saami cultural identity in Finnmark, the northern-most district of the European continent. Yet how reindeer husbandry is presently practised is controversial, as the grazing intensity has been clai med to be non-sustainable. The project is interdisciplinary covering the axis ecology-social sciences aiming at identifying the determinants of how reindeer husbandry is presently practised and what are the consequences.
The novelty of the research appro ach is that it focuses on the often ignored large, geographic variation in reindeer numbers and production in Finnmark. These geographic differences have been temporally persistent for at least 20 years. The paradigm is the following: If one is to devise efficient management strategies, according to internationally recognised goals for ecosystem sustainability, one needs to understand the political, socio-cultural and environmental basis for the current variation in reindeer husbandry and its consequence s.
The project will conduct studies that analyze spatial variability in environmental and socio-cultural factors. It explicitly addresses the hypothesis that a shifting pattern and intensity of reindeer herbivory in conjunction with climatic variability and internal dynamics within plant communities can bring about long lasting transitions in vegetation structure and quality which may feed back on the produetivity within reindeer herds. Productivity will be studied with respect to the influence of reind eer density, habitat/resource use and climatic variation. The social science studies are based on the expectation that socio-cultural processes and variable economic constraints at the level of the "siidas" (Saami reindeer herding units), as well as their interactions with the decisions of management authorities, will be forceful social and political determinants of reindeer herding practices and reindeer numbers. Reindeer numbers/husbandry practice/production as well as the general spatial research desig n will be the main interdisciplinary denominators of the project.