Aspects of a two-pasture — herbivore model

  • Jan Åge Riseth
  • Bernt Johansen
  • Arild Vatn
Keywords: reindeer, enrichment paradox, , Finnmark, lichen pastures, overgrazing, pasture balance, vegetation changes


Pastures for reindeer can be divided into green pastures (mainly herbs and grasses) of summer time and more or less snow-covered lichen pastures of winter. Fall and spring pastures have a composition in-between these extremes, but for model purposes bisection is sufficient. For the animals the green-pasture season is an anabolic phase with a physiological building-up of protein reserves, while winter is a catabolic phase where food-intake is reduced and the animals to a considerable extent survive on the accumulated reserves from summer. While protein reserves are stored from summer to winter, lichen pastures are stored from year to year. Grasses and herbs not being grazed are wilting by the end of the growing season, while lichens not grazed can live for many years. This corresponds with fundamental differences in both growth pattern and resilience. The implications of the different features, and their interconnections, are not easy to survey without formal modeling. The point of departure is a simple pasture-herbivore model, well known from the literature building on a set of differential equations. A new two-pasture-herbivore model is developed. The model includes as basic elements the Klein (1968) hypothesis and that a residual lichen biomass is kept ungrazed due to snow-cover protection. Further the annual cycle is divided into four stylized seasons with herd rates of winter survival, spring calving, summer physiological growth and fall slaughtering. Isoclines are derived for summer pasture, winter pasture and herbivores. Stability properties are discussed in relation to various situations of seasonal pasture balance. Empirical examples, particularly that of changes in pasture balance and vegetation cover in Western Finnmark, Norway, are discussed. The article finds that the two-pasture model provides important features of reality, such as the stability aspects of pasture balance, which cannot be displayed by a one-pasture model. It is suggested that this type of modeling can be used as a basis for further research, e.g. implications of climate change.
How to Cite
Riseth, J. Åge, Johansen, B., & Vatn, A. (2004). Aspects of a two-pasture — herbivore model. Rangifer, 24(4), 65-81.