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Scientists partner with Indigenous communities to study effects of climate change and human development on Arctic caribou

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Ph.D. student Katie Orndahl and assistant research professor Logan Berner prepare a drone, which they are using to gather data about caribou herds in the Arctic. Newswise — Wild caribou are the single most important land-based species for both human communities and ecosystems in the Arctic. Abundant across the polar region, these animals play an essential role both as herbivores that impact tundra vegetation and as an important source of food to Indigenous hunters. In many cultures, caribou also have incalculable spiritual value.

Caribou herds of North America, which collectively include more than one million animals in Canada and another 750,000 in Alaska, represent the largest terrestrial mammal migrations on Earth, traveling thousands of kilometers from the northern edges of the boreal forests to the Arctic barrens of the coastal tundra. However, most herds have been in decline in recent years because of the consequences of climate change and increased human development. Scientists believe that caribou have declined by about 56 percent in North America in the last 20 years, largely due to habitat loss and degradation.

Despite the importance of caribou in the region and the intense research efforts devoted to them, measuring the effects of accelerating oil and gas […]

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