Winter condition variability decreases the economic sustainability of reindeer husbandry

Antti Pekkarinen, Sirpa Rasmus, Jouko Kumpula, Olli Tahvonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Wild and semi-domesticated reindeer are one of the key species in Arctic and subarctic areas, and their population dynamics are closely tied to winter conditions. Difficult snow conditions have been found to decrease the calving success and survivability of reindeer, but the economic effects of variation in winter conditions on reindeer husbandry have not been studied. In this study, we combine state-of-the-art economic-ecological modeling with the analysis of annual reindeer management reports from Finland. These contain local knowledge of herding communities. We quantify the occurrence probabilities of different types of winters from the annual management reports and analyze the effects of this variation in winter conditions on reindeer husbandry by using an age- and sex-structured bioeconomic reindeer-lichen model. Our results show that difficult winters decrease the net revenues of reindeer husbandry. However, they also protect lichen pastures from grazing, thus increasing net revenues in the future. Nonetheless, according to our solutions, the variability of winter conditions overall decreases the net income of herders compared to constant winter conditions. Low lichen biomass appears to make reindeer management more sensitive to the effects of difficult winter conditions. We also found that it is economically sensible to use supplementary feeding during difficult winters, but the net revenues still decrease compared to average winters because of the high feeding costs. Overall, our analysis suggests that the increasing variability of winter conditions due to climate change will decrease the net revenues in reindeer husbandry. This decrease will still occur even if the most extreme effects of climate change are not realized. This study shows that combining a state-of-the-art bioeconomic model and practitioner knowledge can bring compatible insights, ideas, results, and a bottom-up perspective to the discussion.
Original languageFinnish
Article numbere2719
JournalEcological Applications
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2022
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • adaptation to climate change
  • bioeconomic modeling
  • economic sustainability
  • practitioner knowledge
  • reindeer
  • reindeer husbandry
  • snow conditions
  • supplementary feeding
  • winter weather

Field of science

  • Geosciences

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