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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Spatio-temporal habitat use of Svalbard reindeer (RiS ID 12152)

Tildelt: kr 0,11 mill.

The planned research focuses on understanding the impacts of a changing climate on the spatial dynamics of Svalbard reindeer, a key species in Svalbard’s tundra ecosystem. Climate change will likely be the primary driver of population dynamics in the future. To distinguish the complex effects of climate change from the large inter-annual variation characteristic of the Arctic, long-term monitoring data is essential. The fieldwork for my project is part of a UNIS-led long-term monitoring project, Bjørndalen Integrated Gradients (BIG, RiS ID 11225). In 2023, I was responsible for conducting the weekly reindeer counts and used the collected data to model bi-weekly habitat suitability (SHARE, RiS ID:12152), filling an important gap in our understanding of reindeer-habitat relationships. However, as conditions can vary considerably between years, I am keen to investigate not only fine-scale seasonal changes in habitat suitability but to also look at interannual variation in these relationships. Accordingly, I would like to continue the data collection, not just to ensure the continuation of the long-term monitoring time series, but to also gain further valuable data for modeling high arctic herbivore population dynamics. Reindeer will be counted once a week and their GPS locations will be recorded. Once per month, the reindeer count will be complemented with a snow survey, during which snow-ice conditions will be measured along transects covering a coast to inland and elevational gradient. Snow depth, snow hardness, ice layers within the snowpack as well as presence/thickness of ground ice will be measured. The snow survey additionally serves as ground validation for guest researchers who will be doing drone-based snow surveys in Bjørndalen during the planned project period allowing for the incorporation of novel remote sensing-based data into the BIG project for the first time.

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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum