We’ll Cross That Renoduct When We Come to It

What is a renoduct? It’s a portmanteau, that’s what––a combination of two unique words: ren, reindeer in Swedish, and viaduct, a low bridge-like structure. It essentially translates to reindeer bridge. What is a reindeer bridge? Well––you’re about to find out.

In the winter season, the reindeer population in Sweden gorge on lichen, which, according to the ever omniscient Google deities, is “a simple slow-growing plant that typically forms a low crusty, leaflike, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees.” The reindeer eat lichen that grows underneath the snow. For a long, long time (since the first of their species, I daresay), they’ve relied on this organism for food, and it has always been easily accessible––but now that climate change has entered the picture, it’s a different story. As the weather gets warmer even in the winter, what should fall as snow sometimes falls as rain, and when the moisture refreezes, a layer of ice is formed between the reindeer and the lichen. So the reindeer have been forced to wander in search of an unfrozen patch of lichen. Says Per Sandström, a landscape ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, “In a changing climate with difficult snow conditions, it will be extra important to be able to find and access alternative pastures.”

Most unfortunately, their travels oftentimes take them across busy roads with cars and trucks and buses. And when you add reindeer to cars and trucks and buses––well, you don’t end up with anything remotely pleasant.

This is where the renoducts (hey, remember those?) come in. The Swedish government, in an effort to protect its reindeer population from nasty accidents on the road, have decided to build these bridges over bustling roads. This is expected to provide the reindeer with a much safer way to cross, and with it a much safer way to enjoy lichen.

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