Ecological Impacts of Reindeer Herding in Oulanka National Park
Baumflechten | reindeer | lichen | finland | grazing pressure | scots pine forest | Ren [gnd] | Rentierflechte [gnd] | Finnland <Nordost> [gnd] | Überweidung [gnd] | Erico-Pinetea [gnd]
The impacts of reindeer grazing on Cladonia lichen ranges have been receiving increasing attention from both scientists and the general public. Often, grazing pressure is seen as too high and as endangering lichen vegetation ecosystems. During the PAN Park verification process in Oulanka National Park in north-eastern Finland, a study was requested to evaluate the condition of lichen ranges and, if needed, to make recommendations for improvements. In addition to the requested information, this thesis examined the situation of other reindeer winter food plants and the role of Oulanka National Park as part of the pasture area of Alakitka reindeer herding association.<br />Fieldwork was carried out in June and July 2004 on 21 dry Scots pine forest sites in and adjacent to the national park. Ground vegetation characteristics, stand characteristics and biomass of arboreal lichens were measured or estimated on 15 plots per sample site. Fieldwork data collected by other team members for the whole of Alakitka herding association were used as well. Statistical analysis, including correlation analysis and analysis of variance, was carried out using SPSS for Windows and WinStat for Microsoft Excel.<br />Cover percentage and correlations of ground vegetation species on dry sites were used to assess grazing impacts. Grazing pressure was found to be correlated to lichen biomass. Since only 2 % of pasture lands are dry, lichen grazing by reindeer is concentrated on a small area only. Nevertheless, the vegetation cover results support the theory that moderate grazing increases biodiversity by preventing the establishment of species-poor climax states. Even though pastures seem heavily overgrazed from the viewpoint of productivity, neither reindeer survival nor species composition nor forest vitality are negatively affected.<br />Total and usable biomasses of reindeer lichens, Deschampsia flexuosa and arboreal lichens were calculated for the national park and the other part of Alakitka herding cooperation. The park is important for reindeer lichens because half of the dry pastures are situated there and for arboreal lichens because of the park s old-growth forests. The outside part of Alakitka is essential for hair grass biomass because of the large areas with fresh young-growth forest.<br />The only possibilities to improve the condition of lichen pastures seem to be a radical reduction in reindeer numbers or fencing off the national park against reindeer use. Both appear unrealistic. However, the new herding technique of keeping most reindeer in corrals all winter has led to an improvement in lichen biomass and a reduction of grazing pressure on dry sites already.
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