Reindeer over here

Scientists take stock of wildlife with satellites.

Leonid Kolpashchikov

From the Arctic to the Mojave Desert, terrestrial and marine habitats are rapidly changing. These changes affect animals that are adapted to specific ecological niches, sometimes displacing them or reducing their numbers. From their privileged vantage point, satellites are particularly well-suited to observe habitat transformation and help scientists forecast impacts on the distribution, abundance and migration of animals.

The Taimyr reindeer herd in the northernmost region of Russia is the largest wild reindeer herd in the world and a key of source of food for the indigenous population of the Taimyr Peninsula.

“Reindeer populations are declining all over the world, in some places catastrophically; in Taimyr, there has been an about 40% drop since 2000 and the herd is now at 600,000 animals,” said Andrey Petrov, an associate professor at the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls.

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