Potential impacts of oil and gas development and climate change on migratory reindeer calving grounds across the Russian Arctic

Abstract

Aim Drivers of biodiversity loss are increasingly broad in scale, requiring conser-vation planning to move towards range-wide assessments. This is especially chal-lenging for migratory species, such as reindeer or caribou (Rangifer tarandus),which use only a small portion of their range at a given point in time, and forwhich some parts of their range, such as calving grounds, may be much moreimportant than others. Our aim was to identify potential calving ground habitatof wild tundra reindeer populations throughout Russia, where scarce knowledgeabout seasonal reindeer habitat is an obstacle for conservation planning, and toassess possible impacts from oil and gas development and climate change.

Location Northern Eurasia.

Method We used occurrence data from known reindeer calving grounds usingspecies distribution models to first assess calving grounds characteristics andsecond predict their distribution across the Russian Arctic. We then comparedour calving ground map with maps of oil and gas development, and a range ofclimate change indicators.

Results We found areas throughout the Russian Arctic that are suitable forcalving, including for some wild reindeer populations where calving groundlocations are unknown. Variables relating to resource availability in spring andpredator avoidance were the strongest predictors in our model. Oil and gasdevelopment affects calving grounds especially in the Barents Sea region and insouth-western Siberia, whereas climate change affects calving grounds onTaymyr, Chukotka, and Kamchatka.

Main conclusions We conducted the first assessment of calving grounds ofRussia’s wild reindeer populations, highlighting the spatial heterogeneity of thethreats that they may face. Given the potentially strong impact of oil and gasdevelopment and climate change, conservation planning should aim for design-ing resilient conservation networks that would allow Arctic biodiversity tofreely move in time and space and thus to adapt to changing environments.

Publication
Diversity and Distributions, 20(4) 416-429
Tobias Kuemmerle
Tobias Kuemmerle
Professor & Head of the Conservation Biogeography Lab