REINCLIM - Predicting effects of climate change on Svalbard reindeer population dynamics: a mechanistic approach

Project goals

The REINCLIM project is led by Dr. Brage Bremset Hansen (CBD) and received funding from the Research Council of Norway (POLARPROG programme) for 2012-2015. The goal of this cross-disciplinary project is to examine the mechanisms, relative importance and future implications of climate drivers in Svalbard reindeer population dynamics. To achieve this, we will integrate data on climate, snow-ice, vegetation and reindeer into a novel theoretical framework for population modelling. Specifically, we will (1) estimate key population parameters and the age-specific components of climate effects in reindeer using individual-based data; (2) identify the links between climate and food availability; (3) quantify the relative importance of climate change during summer and winter on long-term population dynamics in contrasting areas; and (4) predict future population sizes and time to local extinction under different climate scenarios, and how this varies along environmental gradients

The results will provide a tool for deriving sustainable management strategies by improving our mechanistic understanding of climate effects on Arctic ungulates.

Publications from REINCLIM


  • Vickers H, Høgda KA, Solbø S, Karlsen SR, Tømmervik H, Aanes R, Hansen BB (2016) Changes in greening in the High Arctic - insights from a 30-year AVHRR max NDVI dataset for Svalbard. Environmental Research Letters.
  • Albon SD, Irvine RJ, Halvorsen O, Langvatn R, Loe LE, Ropstad E, Veiberg V, van der Wal R, Bjørkvoll EM, Duff EI, Hansen BB, Lee AM, Tveraa T, Stien A (in press). Contrasting effects of summer and winter warming on body mass explain population dynamics in a food-limited Arctic herbivore. Global Change Biology.
  • Stendardi L, Karlsen SR (2016). Monitoring plant productivity in relation to climate on Svalbard. Norut Report 596.
  • Peeters B, Pedersen ÅØ, Veiberg V, Aanes R, Hansen BB (2016). Kjønnsdiskriminerende klima. Villreinen 31:94-95.
  • Beumer LT, Varpe Ø, Hansen BB (2016). Cratering behaviour and faecal C:N ratio in relation to seasonal snow-pack characteristics in a high-Arctic ungulate. Polar Research (in press).
  • Loe LE, Hansen BB, Stien A, Albon SD, Bischof R, Carlsson A, Irvine J, Meland M, Rivrud IM, Ropstad E, Veiberg V, Mysterud A (2016). Behavioral buffering of extreme weather events in a high-Arcitc herbivore. Ecosphere 7: 1-13.
  • Milner J, Varpe Ø, Van der Wal R, Hansen BB (2016). Experimental icing affects growth, mortality and flowering in a high Arctic dwarf shrub. Ecology and Evolution.
  • Bjørkvoll E, Lee AM, Grøtan V, Sæther B-E, Stien A, Engen S, Albon SD, Loe LE, Hansen BB (2016). Demographic buffering of life histories? Implications of the choice of measurement scale. Ecology 97: 40-47.


  • Lee AM,Bjørkvoll E, Hansen BB, Albon SD, Stien A, Sæther B-E, Engen S, Veiberg V, Loe LE, Grøtan V (2015). An integrated population model for a long-lived ungulate: more efficient data use with Bayesian methods. Oikos 124: 806-816.
  • Hansen BB, Aanes R (2015) Habituation to humans in a predator-free wild ungulate. Polar Biology 38: 145-151.
  • Hansen BB, Isaksen K, Loe LE, Haugen JE, Benestad RE, Milner J, Van der Wal R, Varpe Ø (2015). Varmere, våtere svalbardvintre: konsekvenser for natur og samfunn. MET report no. 20/2015.


  • Hansen BB, Isaksen K, Benestad RE, Kohler J, Pedersen ÅØ, Loe LE, Coulson SJ, Larsen JO, Varpe Ø (2014) Warmer and wetter winters: characteristics and implications of an extreme weather event in the High Arctic. Environmental Research Letters 9:114021.
  • Van der Wal R, Stien A (2014) High Arctic plants like it hot: a long-term investigation of between-year variability in plant biomass. Ecology 95: 3414-3427.
  • Karlsen SR, Elvebakk A, Høgda KA, Grydeland T (2014) Spatial and Temporal Variability in the Onset of the Growing Season on Svalbard, Arctic Norway — Measured by MODIS-NDVI Satellite Data. Remote Sensing 6:8088-8106.
  • Pedersen ÅØ, Bårdsen B-J, Veiberg V, Hansen BB (2014) Jegernes egne data: Analyser av jaktstatistikk og kjevemateriale fra svalbardrein. NPI Brief Report Series 27.
  • Pedersen ÅØ, Josefsen TD, Mørk T, Åsbakk K, Das Neves CG, Hansen BB, Tryland M (2014) Svalbardreinen - økologi, parasitter og sjukdommer. Norsk Veterinærtidsskrift126(2).
  • Yannic G et al. (incl. Irvine RJ) (2014) Genetic diversity in caribou linked to past and future climate change. Nature Climate Change 4:132-137.


  • Hansen BB, Grøtan V, Aanes R, Sæther B-E, Stien A, Fuglei E, Ims RA, Yoccoz NG, Pedersen ÅØ (2013) Climate Events Synchronize the Dynamics of a Resident Vertebrate Community in the High Arctic. Science 339:313-315.
  • Fuglei E, Pedersen ÅØ (2013) Fauna on the Svalbard tundra under the "climate whip". FRAMFORUM.
  • Karlsen SR, Malnes E, Høgda KA (2013) Satellittbasert overvåkning av vekstsesongen på Svalbard - status 2012. Norut rapport.


  • Stien A, Ims RA, Albon SD, Fuglei E, Irvine RJ, Ropstad E, Halvorsen O, Langvatn R, Loe LE, Veiberg V, Yoccoz NG (2012) Congruent responses to weather variability in high arctic herbivores. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0764
  • Pedersen ÅØ (2012) Monitoring of Svalbard reindeer. Ny-Ålesund Newsletter.
  • Hansen BB, Aanes R (2012) Kelp and seaweed feeding by High-Arctic wild reindeer under extreme winter conditions. Polar Research 31:17258.
  • Pedersen ÅØ (2012) Svalbardreinen og klimaendringer. Villreinen: 94-97.

Video clip Lee et al. (2015, Oikos)

Video clip reindeer capture

Video clip icing event

Video clip icing experiment on Cassiope tetragona

Theses under REINCLIM

  • Danielsen P (2016) Climate trends, weather fluctuations and calving phenology in Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhyncus). MSc NTNU
  • Lorentzen JR (2015) Spatiotemporal variation in reindeer winter diet assessed by C:N ratios and stable isotope analysis. MSc NTNU
  • Rønning MH (2014) Spatiotemporal changes in vegetation following range expansion in Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarundus platyrhynchus). MSc NTNU
  • Øyjordet I (2014) Svalbard reindeer and hunting - what are natural borders for management units. MSc NMBU
  • Kinck C (2014) Reduced forage access affects home range size and site fidelity of Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus). MSc NMBU
  • Meland M (2014) Partial migration as a response to ground icing events in a high arctic ungulate. MSc NMBU
  • Bjørkvoll EM (2014) Life-history variation and stochastic population dynamics in vertebrates. PhD NTNU
  • Le Moullec M (2014) Ungulate population monitoring in a tundra landscape: evaluating total counts and distance sampling accuracy. MSc Univ Tromsø
  • Peeters B (2014) Effects of Climate and Animal Density on Adult Sex Ratio Variation in a Large Herbivore. MSc NTNU
  • Beumer LT (2014) Feeding behaviour and diet quality of high-Arctic wild reindeer in response to changes in snow-ice conditions during winter. MSc UNIS
  • Le Moullec M (current) Understanding ecosystem dynamics in a changing Arctic: the role of uncertainties and choice of methodology. PhD NTNU
  • Peeters B (current) Eco-evolutionary implications of climate-harvest interactions in a high Arctic ungulate. PhD NTNU
  • Sandal L (current) The Moran effect in a changing high Arctic climate: spatial synchrony in Salix polaris tree-ring growth. MSc NTNU
  • Hovdal SB (current) Phenological effects of climate change on high Arctic vegetation: an experimental approach. MSc NTNU
  • Haraldsen HK (current) Experimental summer and winter warming effects on high Arctic graminoids. MSc NTNU
  • Grotheim, M (current) Disentangling effects of summer warming and winter icing on high Arctic tundra plants: an experiment. MSc NTNU