• Applied Range Ecology Of Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus Tarandus) On The Seward Peninsula, Alaska

      Finstad, Gregory Lawrence; Kielland, Knut; Harris, Norman (2008)
      Linking variation of the environment to animal production is key to successful range management. Ecological site descriptions (ESDs) are landscape units used by land managers for the grazing management of domestic reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus tarandus) on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. This study investigated the appropriateness of using ESDs for the grazing management of reindeer and explored the use of alternate units to link landscape variation to animal production. ESD composition of reindeer ranges varied across the Seward Peninsula, but there was no relationship to either animal production, estimated by June calf weight and cow/calf ratios, or reindeer serum and tissue mineral concentrations. I have shown that reindeer do not graze uniformly across ESDs, but are selective, both temporally and spatially, in what they consume. Reindeer diet selection and animal production appear to be driven by temporal variation in the nutritional characteristics of individual forage species. Biomass production and seasonal nutritional characteristics of forage species were used develop a computerized mapping program for reindeer producers to identify high quality grazing areas. Production among herds was related with identified forage sources of protein in the diet. Reindeer in herds with smaller June calves consumed more catkins, stems and leaf buds of shrubs in May, presumably to compensate for lower protein reserves. Diets of reindeer and June calf weight were significantly predicted by the delta15N ‰ differential between antler core (AC) and antler periosteum (AP). Although animal production was related to landscape stratification at the species level, data showed that weather patterns affected forage nutrient concentration and foraging accessibility at a landscape level. Body weight and growth of female calves and the proportion of yearlings lactating the next summer were positively correlated with spring temperature and negatively correlated with winter severity and summer temperature. Land managers are using ESDs to monitor and assess the impact of grazing, but I have shown that landscape variation described at a multitude of scales other than ESD are linked to grazing patterns and animal production. I concluded that these alternative landscape units be integrated into reindeer range management currently being practiced on the Seward Peninsula.