ReiGN (2016-2020)

The project “ReiGN: Reindeer husbandry in a Globalizing North – resilience, adaptations and pathways for actions” is a Nordic Centre of Excellence in Arctic research  funded by Nordforsk.

The overall aim of the project is comparative: investigating the future of reindeer herding in Norway, Sweden and Finland in a changing environment.

I’m the leader of Work-package 2 (WP 2): Living landscapes – ecologic and social foundations of mobility.

The overall staring point for WP 2 is a conceptual designation of differences important for
movement and organization of reindeer husbandry across the countries.


WP 2: Living landscapes – ecologic and social foundations of mobility

The movement of pastoralists with their herds is an adaptation to changing environmental conditions, and is shaped by both the animals’ behaviour and human decision-making. Their options to flexibly move across the landscape, either as large-scale seasonal migrations or at smaller scales within the seasonal range as a reaction to the unpredictability of resource availability (Næss 2013, Butt et al. 2009), are influenced by landscape characteristics, originating from ecological and social processes. Across Fennoscandia, the degree of reindeer herders’ mobility is highly variable. This gradient in mobility as a result of different socio-political circumstances is likely to affect the reindeer and the herders significantly in their exposure to environmental change. On top of this, with changing climate, the drivers of mobility are changing rapidly and it remains to be seen how these changes will affect reindeer movement, as well as the herders’ actions and capacity to adapt to these changes.

Mobility is threatened by fragmentation, i.e. the dissection of natural systems into isolated parts (Galvin et al. 2008, Hobbs et al. 2008, Polak et al. 2014). Fragmentation of rangelands is largely a result of two key ideas that influence policy and management (Hobbs et al. 2008): First, the view that exclusive land use promotes human welfare and natural processes because individual property rights work as an incentive for sustainable land stewardship (Galvin et al. 2008, Yeh 2003). Second, the delineation of rangeland into small units provides movement control of animals, assumed to promote rangeland productivity (Hobbs et al. 2008). In practice however, fragmentation may increase rangeland degradation, because it increases concentration of both people and livestock, as seen in Northern Finland and Finnmark in Norway (Tømmervik et al. 2004, Kumpula 2001).

Mobility is, however, not only structured by access to the physical landscape, but also by the social landscape since movements are usually undertaken in collaboration with other herders. Transforming traditional pastoral land tenure (defined as the relationship between people and the land, and the rules that regulate how the land can be used, possessed, and redistributed Kushnick et al. 2014) from commons to private may threaten the cooperative nature of nomadic pastoralists (cf. Næss 2012).

Cooperation is an integral to pastoral production, as pastoralists with extensive cooperative networks do better (Næss 2012, Næss et al. 2010, Næss et al. 2009). Fragmentation may thus have a negative impact on climate change adaptation: while environmental variability is predicted to increase with climate change, the nomads’ ability to respond by moving may be reduced (Næss 2013). Similarly, by changing/reducing the cooperative nature of herding, land tenure changes may severely hamper the herders’ ability to deal with increased environmental variation.

Objectives To investigate differences in the importance of mobility and cooperation and how it may be impacted by climate change and land tenure systems.

  • establish baseline of large-scale seasonal movements and how they have changed historically in response to climate, infrastructures and management strategies;
  • investigate to what degree reindeer herders use mobility to deal with day-to-day environmental variation and how it differs depending on winter pastures; and
  • Investigate the importance of cooperation and how social organisation is influenced by land tenure.