Structure: Reindeer pastures

The reindeer management area covers the northern part of Finland including Lapland and parts of Northern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu. The area equals about one third of the land area of Finland. The main nutrition sources for reindeer are dwarf shrubs and leaves of bushes and young trees in summer and lichens, Alectoriaceae sp. and wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa) in winter. Pressures for the amount and condition of pastures is set by intensive land use.


The vastest lichen pastures grow in the northernmost Finland and their state has been deteriorating. Yet in 1995–1996 the reindeer pastures were mostly either well or slowly regenerating in the twelve northernmost reindeer pastoral districts. Only in one district the pastures were heavily depleted. In a decade the situation declined significantly. In 2007–2008 the lichen pastures were heavily depleted in six districts and in other six districts the regeneration speed had slowed down. In none of the twelve districts were the lichen pastures well regenerating.




Lichens are an important nutrition source also in the central and southern part of the reindeer management area. The cover of lichens has decreased also there, approximately for more than 80% since the 1970s. The main reasons for this decreasing trend are overgrazing, forestry and nitrogen fallout.

The occurrence of Alectoriaceae sp. was first decreasing in the 1970s and the 1980s but has started to rise since. The forestry has been the main reason for the decreasing trend because the species require forests over 70–80 years of age to prosper. The increasing trend in recent years is possibly due to decline in sulphur fallout.

The biomass of wavy hair-grass has decreased in the central and southern parts of the reindeer management area since the 1970s. The reason of the trend is unclear. The nitrogen fallout and forestry actions should increase the biomass of the species. The biomass has possibly decreased because of overgrazing and the growth of tree canopies in young forests.

Originally the reindeer go sufficient nutrition independently from nature but in the 1970s as the number of reindeer rose the reindeer herders began to feed the reindeer during winter months. This is also necessary due to diminishing and fragmenting lichen grounds because of more intensive use of land in Lapland. The winter time nutrition has been the bottleneck of reindeer herding for decades. In recent years the availability of nutrition in summer months has been starting to restrict the reindeer herding as well, especially in the northernmost parts of the country.


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