Rangifer taran­dus caribou

Popular Science - - FEATURES -

THE DEEP SNOW OF NORTH AMER­ICA’S SODDEN, PEAT-COV­ERED FORESTS has long kept com­peti­tors of the wood­land caribou at bay. But warm­ing tem­per­a­tures draw in other deer—and wolves fol­low, ea­gerly dec­i­mat­ing the caribou pop­u­la­tion. Their tun­drad­welling cousins—rein­deer and caribou—are also threat­ened by chang­ing weather. As sea ice re­treats along their habi­tat, it evap­o­rates, en­ters the up­per at­mos­phere as mois­ture, and turns into in­tense rain that freezes atop the snow, trap­ping the plants they eat un­der­neath a layer of ice. This vi­cious wa­ter cy­cle can starve to death tens of thou­sands of crea­tures at a time.

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