Snapshots from Nordic reindeer research

More about reindeers

Reindeer husbandry planning (Sweden)Swedish flag. Illustration.

Man sitting in forest with measuring instrument. Photo.

Per Sandström, SLU, is convinced that the “Renbruksplan” improves the dialogue between reindeer husbandry and other land users. Photo: Mats Hannerz

Per Sandström at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå has been involved in reindeer husbandry planning (Renbruksplaner) for the last 20 years. The plans are each reindeer herding community’s own tool to describe their use of the land, where the reindeer feed, move and rest. The plans are essential for communication with other land-users such as those involved in forestry, energy production, infrastructure development and mining. SLU is an active partner in developing and evaluating the plans, and Per Sandström is hopeful:

– We have recently completed an educational campaign about the use of reindeer husbandry planning, and we conclude that the dialogue has become far more positive. The increased knowledge and understanding about the reindeer herders´ claims is extremely helpful for the planning of forestry activities, mine prospecting or the need for passages over railways or roads, he says.

The development of reindeer husbandry planning is unique to Sweden.

– We have seen a growing interest in our way of creating and improving dialogue including from our neighbouring countries, he says.

Read more: (in Swedish)
Contact: Per Sandström,


Structure and economics in reindeer husbandry (Norway)Norwegian flag. Illustration.

Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) is conducting several research projects on reindeer herding. One example relates to the economic sustainability of reindeer herding. In one of the reports, the conclusions are that (1) There is no clear connection between ownership structure and effectiveness in reindeer herding. There is a strong, traditional capacity among the Sámi to cooperate flexibly irrespective of ownership structure. (2) The values created go exclusively to the owner of the reindeer, with no specific reward for labour inputs.

Read more: about the specific project “Driftsøkonomi i norsk reindrift”,
Reindeer research at NIBIO:


Reindeer and climate change (Finland)Finnish flag. Illustration.

“In northern Finland, climate change could at its worst [will] trap Arctic animals in a narrow strip of land between the Arctic Ocean and the approaching forest zone. Rising temperatures affect the utilisation of Arctic nature in numerous ways.”

Reindeers at dawn in a winter landscape. Photo.Extreme variations in weather in late autumn make feeding more difficult for reindeer. This is one of the conclusions from the research on reindeer and climate change at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). If thaws and rain wet the snow and ground high on the fells where most reindeer graze, the snow cover will freeze into a solid and dense layer of ice when the temperature drops below zero. An ice-cover makes it more difficult, or sometimes impossible, for the reindeer to dig for food. One positive side of climate change is that snow-melting comes earlier and improves the availability of food in late winter. However, the early onset of spring cannot compensate for the problems during the winter season.

Another problem with rising temperatures is that insect attacks could get worse. Autumn weights of calves have dropped after exceptionally warm summers. Warmer summers may also lead to the expansion of parasitic insects northwards.

Read more: Reindeer and climate change,
Contact: Jouko Kumpula,


Winterfeeding of reindeer (Sweden)Swedish flag. Illustration.

In reindeer husbandry, winter-feeding has increased due to competing land use activities and climate change. This may be beneficial in the short-term, but may risk the animals’ future ability to make use of the natural forage resource and reduce the opportunity to utilise natural pastures.

The project Reinfeed aims to gain knowledge of best practice for winter-feeding of reindeer and other animals to avoid possible deterioration of foraging performance on natural pastures.

Read more: REINFEED,
Contact: Anna Skarin,


Forestry and reindeer husbandry (Finland)Finnish flag. Illustration.

Reindeer and calf walking on a opend field. Photo.Reindeer husbandry and forestry overlap in northern Finland, and there have been disputes between those involved in the two forms of land use for over a hundred years. A study from the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi has examined the different perspectives of practitioners of reindeer herding and forestry. The study showed that a number of conventional forestry measures decrease either the number, surface area or quality of the reindeer pastures. The impacts of reindeer husbandry on commercial forests are mostly marginal. Consultation procedures have improved relations between the state forestry and reindeer husbandry practitioners. Corresponding procedures are also being sought for private forest owners. Actions that forestry can take include ensuring uneven-aged forest structure, saving old-growth trees, harvesting logging residue on lichen-rich sites, using light soil preparation and natural regeneration.

Read more: Turunen, M. T., Rasmus, S., Järvenpää, J., Kivinen, S. 2020. Relations between forestry and reindeer husbandry in northern Finland – Perspectives of science and practice. Forest Ecology and Management vol 457, 117677.


Impacts of wind power (Sweden)Swedish flag. Illustration.

A large part of the wind power in Sweden is developed in the northern part, and thus ends up in the reindeer herding area. The knowledge of how wind power affects reindeer has increased, but there are still uncertainties of how the wind power affect the winter grazing area in the forest in Sweden. Wind power involves cumulative effects from roads, power lines and also disturbance from the wind turbines and rotors.

Read more: About Vindval,
Contact: Anna Skarin,