Roughly 65 per cent of the reindeer husbandry area is forest land or drained marshland covered by forestry activities. In these areas, both forestry and reindeer husbandry have an impact on the pastures and also each other.
Effects of forestry on reindeer pastures form complex question where the knowledge, objectives and attitudes of different actors vary. However, also reindeer husbandry should be taken account in the planning and execution processes made in forestry.
Coexistence requires adjustment from both sides
Forestry has the greatest impact on reindeer pastures in the southern and central regions of the reindeer husbandry area, and in those regions of Upper Lapland where forests under management activities cover a significant part of reindeer pastures. Forestry is particularly detrimental to winter pastures, as from the perspective of reindeer husbandry, full-grown and old – over 140 years in age – pine and spruce forests are the best lichen pastures.
The area of the best lichen pastures has strongly decreased over the past several decades as a result of the felling of commercial forests and they have been replaced by sapling stands and young cultivated forests. The transformation and fragmentation of continuous forest pastures into a mosaic of dense cultivated forests and land dressing areas, combined with a network of forest roads, have forced reindeer husbandry to adapt to a winter pasture environment which has changed and deteriorated in many ways. The change in reindeer husbandry methods that occurred at the same time as the change of the pasture environment and the resulting growth in reindeer numbers has resulted in the extensive deterioration of lichen pastures.
On the other hand, forest handlings have increased the amounts of summer and autumn food items especially in mesic and sub-mesic forest felling areas, which has also improves body condition of reindeer in autumn. Forest road network has also positive effects: it makes reindeer herding work and gathering of reindeer easier.
Especially commercial forest owned by the state the needs of reindeer husbandry are now recognized better in the planning and execution processes made in forestry. However, there is not always easy to find agreement on the real effects of forestry on reindeer pastures, which sometimes complicates this recognition. On the other hand, also large scaled changes in forest structure occurred in commercial forests during past decades are not easily changeable towards a better direction. At the same time also reindeer husbandry experiences difficult to improve the state of winter pasture by regulating the number of reindeer or changing the present herding methods.
NRIF studies reindeer pastures and the factors affecting their condition
Natural Resources Institute Finland studies the changes in the amount, condition and usability of reindeer pastures, and analyses the causes of the changes. The studies also include, among other things, evaluation of the effects of reindeer husbandry and forestry on reindeer pastures. The joint research by NRIF and the University of Helsinki is also related, analysing, for example, the effects of reindeer numbers, pasture usage methods, forestry and other land use on the condition of winter pastures and the productivity and profitability of reindeer husbandry.
Together with the Finnish Environmental Institute, NRIF is building a GIS database on reindeer husbandry and related tools into the Liiteri location data system. The database can be utilised in the planning of reindeer husbandry, forestry and land use.
Luke’s research work promotes reindeer husbandry and coexistence between different ways to use forests
Knowledge on the interactions between forestry and reindeer husbandry are needed, when the use of commercial forests is planned in the reindeer husbandry area. Many sided knowledge also promotes the planning work for sustainable reindeer husbandry, forestry and land use. Land and forest use in the reindeer husbandry area are leaded by different ministries, ELY-centre and regional councils of provinces. Research results are also used by Metsähallitus, Reindeer Herder’s Association and reindeer herding co-operartives.
Picture on top of the page: Jouko Kumpula, Luke