Modeling Regional Dynamics of Human-Rangifer Systems: A Framework for Comparative Analysis

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"Theoretical models of interaction between wild and domestic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus; caribou in North America) can help explain observed social-ecological dynamics of arctic hunting and husbandry systems. Different modes of hunting and husbandry incorporate strategies to mitigate effects of differing patterns of environmental uncertainty. Simulations of simple models of harvested wild and domestic herds with density-dependent recruitment show that random environmental variation produces cycles and crashes in populations that would quickly stabilize at a steady state with nonrandom parameters. Different husbandry goals lead to radically different long-term domestic herd sizes. Wild and domestic herds are typically ecological competitors but social complements. Hypothesized differences in ecological competition and diverse human livelihoods are explored in dynamic social-ecological models in which domestic herds competitively interact with wild herds. These models generate a framework for considering issues in the evolution of Human-Rangifer Systems, such as state-subsidized herding and the use of domestic herds for transportation support in hunting systems. Issues considered include the role of geographic factors, markets for Rangifer products, state-subsidized herding, effects of changes in husbandry goals on fate of wild herds, and how environmental shocks, herd population cycles, and policy shifts might lead to system state changes. The models also suggest speculation on the role of geographic factors in the failure of reindeer husbandry to take hold in the North American Arctic. The analysis concludes with suggested empirical strategies for estimating parameters of the model for use in comparative studies across regions of the Arctic."
caribou, reindeer, social-ecological systems, systems--models