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Global climate change threatens reindeer, caribou

Submitted by Marie Gilbert
Phone: 907-474-7412

10/28/04

Global climate change could threaten the most important terrestrial subsistence resource in the circumpolar north-- reindeer and caribou.

To assess the effects of climate change on reindeer and caribou and the communities that depend on them, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Institute of Arctic Biology (IAB) and Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service are hosting a workshop in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, to launch the CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment network (CARMA).

"The goal of the CARMA network is to bring the right people together to see how we can collectively monitor the relationship between humans and Rangifer" said Gary Kofinas, CARMA organizer and professor of policy and management at IAB.

"Everyone is observing unprecedented changes in the Arctic such as an overall increase in temperature, changes in the variability of weather, changes effecting hunters' access to animals because of changes in snowpack and timing of snowpack," Kofinas said.

"This international network of government agencies, resource managers and users, community representatives and university researchers will work together to monitor the health of Rangifer populations in response to the significant climate and environmental changes occurring in the North," said Don Russell, CARMA organizer and Environment Canada's Manager of Circumpolar Global Change Program.

Workshop participants from Russia, Finland, Norway, Greenland, Canada, and the United States will define how the CARMA network will be structured and how the information will be shared among participants and the public.

"In northwestern North America there has been dramatic warming in the spring," Russell said. "But in the central barrens of Northwest Territories (NWT) and Nunavut the fall has undergone warming while east of Hudson Bay temperatures have actually dropped."

"We need to track how these changes affect the animals and the people whose cultures have depended on caribou and reindeer for thousands of years," Kofinas said.

"Within the CARMA network we can integrate the information we are getting from satellites, weather stations, biological monitoring, and community monitoring to get a better picture of the whole system," Russell said.

CARMA is part of the Arctic Council's initiative to monitor biodiversity in relation to climate change. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that provides a mechanism to address common concerns and challenges faced by Arctic people. CARMA's initial funding was provided by Environment Canada's Northern Ecosystem Initiative, Canada's Climate Change Action Fund and the International Arctic Science Committee.

Contact: Marie Gilbert, Publications and Information Coordinator, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, (907)474-7412, marie.gilbert@uaf.edu

Don Russell, Environment Canada, Whitehorse, Yukon 867-456-2695, don.russell@ec.gc.ca

Gary Kofinas, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks 907-474-7078, gary.kofinas@uaf.edu, www.iab.uaf.edu.

Brad Griffith, Institute of Arctic Biology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 907-474-5067, ffdbg@uaf.edu.

Additional information: The official CARMA launch reception will be Sunday, Oct. 31, from 6 -7 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel (http://www.radisson.com/vancouverca) in Richmond B.C., Canada.

Human Role in Reindeer/Caribou Systems - www.rangifer.org

Arctic Council - http://www.arctic-council.org/index.html