Climate And Reindeer Diseases (CARD)
In Norway, we have approximately 250 000 semi-domesticated reindeer (Rangifer t. tarandus), of which 75% are in Finnmark County and the rest distributed between Troms, Nordland, Nord- and Sør-Trøndelag, and Oppland Counties. The health status of reindeer is generally good, but health disorders and diseases, and especially infectious diseases caused by virus, bacteria and parasites, can have important impact on animals and their fitness, and thus the reindeer populations and the economy in reindeer herding. Climate change, indicating more winter rain and frequent freeze-thaw cycles, can to an increasing extent lock important winter lichen pastures, making it difficult for reindeer to survive the winter. One mitigation is increased use of supplementary feeding, which will increase the animal density and transmission of infectious agents between animals. Climate change, with increased mean temperatures, may also alter the distribution of important blood sucking insects and ticks, which are vectors for potential pathogens for reindeer.
Through this project, we want to establish baseline information about the presence and distribution of reindeer pathogens in eight selected reindeer herds from Tana in Finnmark in the north to Valdres and Røros in the south. In addition to collecting samples from the reindeer herds, we are collecting blood sucking insects and ticks on the summer pastures for these herds. Samples are screened for potential pathogens (serology, PCR, qRT-PCR) and coupled to biological data for the reindeer, as well as data characterizing the pastures and meteorological data, in search for associations between presence and prevalence of pathogens and weather and climate factors over time. The project is applied science based and focuses on relevant issues related to climate change and the Arctic environment. The project is funded by High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment (Fram Centre; pilot project) and the Reindeer Development Fund (Reindriftens utviklingsfond).