Rudolph's nose may have nothing to do with saving the planet Earth, but researchers say reindeers do actually help cool down the planet. How they do it has nothing to do with Christmas or Santa Claus, but we can say, they give the world an everlasting precious gift.
A group of analysts published their work in Environmental Research Letters
, saying that because reindeers graze the bushes on the Arctic tundra, they actually increase the level of surface albedo. Meaning, reindeers help multiply the heat reflected by the Earth back into space.
The lead researcher, Dr Mariska te Beest, from Umeå University in Sweden, said in an interview
, "The effect reindeer grazing can have on albedo and energy balances is potentially large enough to be regionally important. It also points towards herbivore management being a possible tool to combat future warming. Most of the Arctic tundra is grazed by either domesticated or wild reindeer, so this is an important finding."
“Of course, the impact the reindeer have will vary according to their densities and the subsequent effects on the vegetation levels across the whole tundra,” she added.
The group completed their field estimations in Reisadalen (Sámi, Raisduoddar), Troms, Norway. They combined the factors, land surface with estimated albedo and vegetation attributes. They utilized an interesting trial set-up, where an over 50 year-old fence segregated portions of those receiving light and those that are grazed by reindeers.
Dr. te Beest said: "We found that high densities of reindeer changed ice tundra vegetation by diminishing bush wealth. This brought about relating shifts in LAI, shade tallness and NDVI – the measure of live green vegetation."
"By preventing the encroachment of shrubs, reindeer can affect the local climate," said te Beest. "A novel result is that it was not only tall shrubs that were important, but also reducing the abundance of dwarf shrubs increased the albedo substantially."
Does this mean Rudolph's red and shiny nose was actually a sunburn? We will never know.