On the tragedy of the commons: When predation and livestock loss may improve the economic lot of herders
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Original versionAmbio. 2017, 46 (6), 644-654. 10.1007/s13280-017-0910-1
This paper studies the practice of semi-domestic reindeer (Rangifer t. tarandus) herding in Finnmark county in northern Norway. In this area, the Saami reindeer herders compete for space and grazing areas and keep large herds, while at the same time, the reindeer population is heavily exposed to carnivore predation by the lynx (Lynx lynx), the wolverine (Gulo gulo), and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). It is demonstrated that predation actually may improve the economic lot of livestock holders in this unmanaged local common setting. There are ecological as well as economic reasons as to why this happens. The ecological reason is that predation compensates for natural mortality; that is, increased predation reduces natural mortality, indicating that the net loss due to predation actually may be quite small. When predation reduces livestock density, the feeding conditions of the animals will improve, resulting in increased livestock weight and higher per animal slaughter value. At the same time, a smaller stock reduces the operating costs of the herders.