Living landscapes – ecologic and social foundations of mobility

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 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 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.

Finnmark, Norway

Resource availability are influenced by landscape characteristics, originating from ecological and social processes

Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen


Mobility is threatened by fragmentation. Fragmentation of rangelands is largely a result of two key ideas. First, that exclusive land use promotes human welfare and natural processes because individual property rights work as an incentive for sustainable land stewardship. Second, that delineation of rangeland into small units provides movement control of animals and promote rangeland productivity. In practice however, fragmentation may increase rangeland degradation, because it increases concentration of both people and livestock.

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 may threaten the cooperative nature of nomadic pastoralists.

Cooperation is an integral to pastoral production, as pastoralists with extensive cooperative networks do better. 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. Similarly, by 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 by:

  • establishing baseline of large-scale seasonal movements and how they have changed historically in response to climate, infrastructures and management strategies
  • investigating to what degree reindeer herders use mobility to deal with day-to-day environmental variation and how it differs depending on winter pastures
  • investigating the importance of cooperation and how social organisation is influenced by land tenure
Published 20. October 2016 - 14:37 - Updated 8. March 2017 - 10:39