Dissolving Ice in Mongolia: Reindeer Herders at Risk

Dissolving Ice in Mongolia: Reindeer Herders at Risk

Dissolving ice in Mongolia puts reindeer herder at risk. This endangers the herders, new research found, revealing the toll the climate crisis is taking on people and animals.

Herders in the northern country rely on what they call “eternal ice”. This remains intact even during the summer, for drinking water and to cool down reindeer in the heat. This was according to William Taylor, the author of the study that published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dissolving ice in Mongolia
via Pixabay

Dissolving ice threatens animals and people

Taylor who is an assistant professor and curator of archeology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History said,

The ice plays a specific role in reindeer herding. They go to the ice in summer to thermoregulate, and time on these ice patches provides relief from insect stress.

More broadly, as these patches are melting, they change the long-term viability of the land.

The families interviewed by Taylor said that the ice patches melted for the first time in 2016 and 2018. Herders then complained that the worsening pasture quality led to reindeer sickness and even death.

Taylor said that the ice patcher plays an important role for wild and domestic animals in the high mountain not just in the region but also around the world. His research shows a clear impact of the climate crisis.

He said,

It’s hard to get a handle on what is happening [with the climate crisis] and what it looks like.

We’re seeing a real personal cost to folks in this region. Changes that impact people today — the health of the reindeer, the viability of the herds.

This is a very specific outcome for a group of people in a part of the world where they have essentially not contributed in any meaningful way to the problem at hand.

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