Climate change may be doing more than shrinking ice caps and raising sea levels, according to some researchers. For reindeer on one Arctic island chain near the North Pole, it also means they may be losing weight.
Reindeer in Svalbard, an island chain between Norway and the North Pole, have lost about 15 pounds on average since the 1990s as temperatures have climbed, according to Steve Albon, an ecologist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, the Guardian reported. The average weight of the adult animals is now 106 lbs, combared to 121 lbs two decades ago.
Albon, who led a study with researchers from Norway, suggested that warmer temperatures meant the precipitation that used to be snowfall in the northern climes was now falling as rain — rain that then freezes into hard ice that locks away the moss and grasses reindeer eat.
"Warmer summers are great for reindeer but winters are getting increasingly tough," he said, according to the Guardian. According to the study, the increasingly scarce food supply in the winter has meant female reindeer are giving birth to smaller calves or not successfully completing their pregnancies at all.
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