Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 3–17 | Cite as

Environmental Stochasticity and Long-Term Livestock Viability—Herd-Accumulation as a Risk Reducing Strategy

  • Marius Warg NæssEmail author
  • Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen


This study tests the hypothesis that herd accumulation can be a risk reducing strategy aimed at increasing security in an unpredictable environment. Saami reindeer husbandry in Norway is characterized by environmental unpredictability and occasionally harsh winters can have dramatic negative effects on reindeer population densities. While herd accumulation has been found to be an adaptive risk reducing strategy in stochastic environments (i.e., individually rational), the accumulation of large herds may also result in collectively negative density dependent effects, which may negatively affect individual herders (i.e., collectively irrational). We found that individual husbandry units’ strategies, such as accumulating reindeer, have a larger effect on individual husbandry units’ herd size than a negative density-dependent effect.


Nomadic pastoralism Negative externalities Management Tragedy of the commons Herd maximization Rangifer tarandus Norway 



This study is part of the Ecosystem Finnmark project and was funded by the Research Council of Norway (the FRIMUF program). Valuable comments from and discussion with Rolf A. Ims, Per Fauchald and Torkild Tveraa have improved this manuscript. We would also like to thank Hans Tømmervik for discussions and for providing additional information, and two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped to improve the quality of the paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Social AnthropologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)Arctic Ecology Department, Polar Environmental CentreTromsøNorway

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