In old-growth forests, on the branches and trunks of trees, grows the arboreal tree hanging lichen, an important wintertime food for the reindeer. Tree hanging lichen is most important at the time of year when the snow cover is too hard and thick for the reindeer to dig through in order to reach the lichen growing on the ground.
The reindeer eat the tree hanging lichen growing on trees as high up as they can reach, but most of the lichen they eat has fallen in the harsh winds onto the snow cover. Towards the spring the snow cover can be all black by fallen lichen.
The logging of old-growth forests force the traditional free-grazing reindeer herding towards the use of artificial fodder (hay). The additional feeding is expensive and laborious, moreover it turns management of reindeer towards artificial agricultural animal husbandry. That is what all the reindeer herders, especially in the Sámi area, do not want. Free-grazing reindeer herding is the basis of Sámi culture.
In 1999-2000, the Lappi reindeer herding co-operative carried out a research project in its reindeer grazing areas, focusing on tree hanging lichen. The result of extensive field investigation was that the most important tree hanging lichen forests are in the western parts of the co-operatives area, that is in Peurakaira.
“The results of the investigation show, that in the logged areas, tree hanging lichen is extremely rare. By logging the forest, the growth basis for tree hanging lichen is destroyed. Thus the logging has a significant impact on the tree hanging lichen growth in the reindeer grazing areas and is causing considerable damage to the reindeer herding.”
Read the summary of the Lappi reindeer herding co-operatives research: “Luppoa Etsimässä – seeking the tree-hanging lichen”.(pdf )