Tipping points and the resilience

This may induce loss of resilience until even a minor perturbation can push the system over a so-called tipping point. An example is the transition in the relying on natural lichen pastures for winter forage to relying on supplemental feeding. The likelihood of reindeer husbandry to cross a tipping point, beyond which the current husbandry system with its practices and identity needs to change considerably in order to remain a viable livelihood, will be the focus.

Finnmark, Norway

The transition in the relying on natural lichen pastures for winter forage to relying on supplemental feeding

Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen

Critical transitions
Changes in slow variables typically become apparent only after long time periods (decades), and may cause non-linear responses in other more dynamic fast variables. A slow variable may be a gradual loss in lichen pasture quality or quantity at a landscape level, which affects the faster variables of reindeer growth and survival. The key to understanding the resilience of the system is then to understand the dynamics of its slow variables: pasture quality and quantity.

Landscape transformations are ongoing in all three Nordic countries, albeit with large variations, which has led to path-dependent differences in herding practices between the countries. Therefore, the distance to crossing a tipping point is likely to differ between countries as well as between herding districts. Indicators for the distance to a tipping point could be the amount of supplemental feeding, changes in lichen biomass and in the rotational use of lichen pastures, and the increased investment in the mechanization of reindeer herding.


Objectives - To examine the role of changing winter pasture quality or quantity on the risk of system changes. Specifically, we aim to compare between and within the countries:

  • the impacts that other forms of land use have on the transformation of lichen pastures and resulting consequences, such as the options of pasture rotation
  • the perception of ‘thresholds’ that originate from these transformations by reindeer herders
  • the role of adaptations, and the factors that modulate the distinction or transition between these stages
Published 20. October 2016 - 15:19 - Updated 8. March 2017 - 10:42