Comparing Landscape Partitioning Approaches to Protect Wildlife Habitat in Managed Forests

Denys Yemshanov
Triin Hart
Jeff Cameron
Ning Liu
Frank Koch
Mathieu Leblond
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Industrial forestry activities can increase landscape fragmentation, impacting wildlife populations, particularly Canada’s woodland caribou, Rangifer tarandus caribou. To protect caribou in areas with forestry activities, the province of Ontario, Canada, implemented a Dynamic Caribou Harvest Schedule (DCHS). The DCHS spatially aggregates harvest disturbance into regions and distributes them across the landscape to maintain forest patch size-age distributions consistent with a natural variation range. However, the DCHS may negatively impact the cost of timber supply. We compared the DCHS with an alternative zoning approach that assigned the harvest deferral and operational management zones within a large forest area. We compared these approaches using an optimization model that combined harvest scheduling, access road construction and caribou protection sub-problems. We formulated the protection of caribou habitat and road construction as network flow problems, while the harvesting problem incorporated the ecological constraints prescribed by the forest management plan. We compared the DCHS and zoning approaches in the Wabadowgang Noopming Forest of Ontario, a boreal area within the caribou distribution zone. For the same volume of sustainable harvest, the zoning approach protected less total area but more habitat and old-growth stands over the long term, and yielded lower timber costs by 1.2-2.2$-m-3 than the DCHS.