Effect of Winter Snow and Ground-Icing on a Svalbard Reindeer Population: Results of a Simple Snowpack Model

Jack Kohler, Ronny Aanes
2004 Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research  
Winter climate is a key factor affecting population dynamics in high-arctic ungulates, with many studies showing a strong negative correlation of winter precipitation to fluctuations in population growth rate. Terrestrial ice crust or ground-ice can also have a catastrophic impact on populations, although it is rarely quantified. We assess the impact of winter climate on the population dynamics of an isolated herd of Svalbard reindeer near Ny-Å lesund with a retrospective analysis of past
more » ... lysis of past winter snowpack. We model landscape-scale snowpack and ground-ice thickness using basic temperature and precipitation data in a simple degree-day model containing four adjustable parameters. Parameter values are found that lead to model snow and ground-ice thicknesses which correlate well with three different model targets: reindeer population growth rates; April snow accumulation measurements on two local glaciers; and a limited number of ground-icing observations. We explain a significant percentage (80%) of the variance in the observed reindeer population growth rate using just the modeled mean winter ground-ice thickness in a simple regression. Adding other explanatory parameters, such as modeled mean winter snowpack thickness or previous years' population size does not much improve the regression relation. Ó 2004 Regents of the University of Colorado
doi:10.1657/1523-0430(2004)036[0333:eowsag]2.0.co;2 fatcat:oarnwoywpbcbxp4n74tpgacsey