Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) grazing on the tundra in Arctic Norway
Michael Nolan—Getty Images/Publisher Mix RF
By Justin Worland
December 22, 2016

Reindeer’s grazing in the Arctic habit may help slow climate change, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, focuses on a concept called surface albedo, a measure of the whiteness of a given surface. More sunlight is reflected into space with a higher surface albedo. Reindeer help increase that measure by reducing the prominence of shrubs or eliminating them entirely.

The results are small in the scheme of the entire globe, but they can play a significant role in that specific region, according to the research. And relief from global warming could not come soon enough for the Arctic. The region has experienced temperatures significantly above the 20th century average in the several years, far outpacing the speed of global warming more broadly.

Reindeer have actually increased in population in the North Pole while reducing the average size of a member of the species, according to different study from earlier this month. Climate change is also thought to be the culprit behind that phenomenon.

 

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