Report from Victoria González, Master in Biology, University of Tromsø
Financial support for the project: “Reindeer grazing history effects on alpine germinable seed banks”
The Centre for Sámi Studies supported me with kr 10000,- in order to publish my master thesis in a scientific journal. The area of research of my master thesis was reindeer-plant interactions, in particular how reindeer grazing affects the seed density and life history traits present in the Finnmark seed banks.
Seeds fall to the ground and accumulate in the soil forming seed banks. Seed banks therefore represent important plant recruitment opportunities, especially when the aboveground vegetation is disturbed. Life history traits represent the characteristics of growth, reproduction and storage or a species. Since life history traits are the legacy of selective pressures, their frequency and strength can provide information on important ecosystem processes. The variation in life history traits and seed density in the seed banks is therefore of vital importance to understand the future recruitment opportunities of the vegetation.
Reindeer are the most important vertebrate grazers in Finnmark (Norway). The semi-domestic reindeer survive on the nutrient poor common grounds on the continental plain during winter, while their growth and reproduction depends on nutrient rich vascular plants that dominate the summer grounds along the coast. Reindeer are selective grazers and are known to graze on flowering plant parts when available because they are more nutritious. Therefore, my main concern was if the current reindeer densities in Finnmark’s summer grazing grounds were affecting the seed bank densities and life history traits by selectively eating flowers and consequently modifying the seed input to the seed bank. The results from this study suggested that reindeer are actually reducing the seed densities in the seed banks, compromising the future recruitment opportunities of the summer pastures. However the life history trait composition of the seed bank was not affected by reindeer grazing but was found dependant on regional factors like climate. I completed my master exam in March 2006 and have spent the following months converting the thesis into a publishable manuscript. The manuscript was submitted not long ago to a well known scientific journal.
The financial support from the Centre of Sámi Studies greatly helped me to achieve my goal of submitting my manuscript to a well know scientific journal and I am grateful for their support.
Victoria González, University of Tromsø, November 2006.