Habitat Monitoring

Content related to: Habitat Monitoring

Recovery of Terrestrial Lichens Following Wildfire in the Boreal Shield of Saskatchewan: Early Seral Forage Availability for Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)

Investigation into short-term and long-term progression of terrestrial forage lichen cover following wildfire in the Boreal Shield of northern Saskatchewan.

Based on forage lichen cover alone, we can conclude that Jack Pine stands as young as 21-30 years may provide a more suitable supply of forage cover for woodland caribou. Results explain how woodland caribou have persisted in an environment with high fire frequency and extent and that it may be more appropriate to include two phases of caribou habitat availability in models rather than applying a single threshold after which habitat is deemed suitable.

Organization:

Using Landsat imagery to backcast fire and post-fire residuals in the Boreal Shield of Saskatchewan: implications for woodland caribou management

Mapping of fire from 1988-2013 using the differenced Normalized Burn Ratio analysis of Landsat Thematic mapper and Operational Land Imager.

For some Boreal Shield ranges, including SK1, where fire comprises the majority of total disturbance and residual patches of unburned forest re abundant, total disturbance calculations, critical habitat designation and range planning decisions should take into account residuals, including water bodies.

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Vegetation Recovery on Legacy Seismic Lines

Despite decades of research assessing wildlife response to seismic lines, little is known about the effects of seismic line clearing on the quality of understory forage for wildlife, or about the resilience of boreal understory communities to seismic line clearing. Using field data collected from 351 seismic lines across west-central and north-western Alberta, Canada, and focusing on forage taxa preferred by moose and bears, we:

  1. investigated whether understory forage taxa composition differed among seismic lines, seismic line edges, and the interior forest, and
  2. assessed how this relationship changed as a function of seismic line attributes (ecosite, orientation, level of motorized human use, regeneration).

    In addition to help inform restoration efforts we:
  3. used these field data and GIS derived and remote sensing (LiDAR) data to model and map vegetation recovery (growth, structure, and composition) on seismic lines and along seismic line edges.

Generally disturbance-tolerant forbs and graminoids were more abundant on seismic lines, Rhododendron spp. and Vaccinium vitis-idaea were more abundant on edges, and Alnus, Salix and Betula spp. were more abundant on edges and seismic lines. Attributes of seismic lines did not explain patterns of understory forage abundance, although we found positive relationships between motorized human use and abundance of Chamerion spp. and non-target graminoids.

Using GIS data we found that wet seismic lines and seismic lines adjacent to open forest stands were more likely to have more early seral stage vegetation that is attractive wildlife forage. We also found that in west-central Alberta, wet seismic lines had less vegetation growth and cover, while in north-western Alberta, wet seismic lines were more likely to have more vegetation cover, but there was no relationship between vegetation growth on seismic lines and seismic line wetness. Our models of vegetation growth did not validate well other techniques (e.g. UAVs) and studies focused at smaller scales are likely to provide accurate data on current vegetation height and cover on seismic lines.

Our results combined with results from previous research provide further evidence that seismic lines, particularly wet seismic lines, need active restoration to re-establish natural vegetation trajectories. Overall, targeting seismic line restoration treatments to change vegetation composition, as well as structure and height, will likely help to restore ecosystem function for caribou and other boreal species.

Paper:
https://www.cclmportal.ca/resource/divergent-patterns-understory-forage-growth-after-seismic-line-exploration-implications

Organization:

Tǫdzı (Boreal Caribou) and the State of Their Habitat

Project Description:
This report considers Tłı̨chǫ knowledge of the relationships that tǫdzı (boreal caribou) have with their habitat, including human and other-than human beings.

The current research grew from elders’ discussions at Ɂedèezhìi field camp about the importance of tǫdzı habitat around the Whatì area as the frequency and extent of forest fires continued to grow. The elders strongly suggested we pay more attention to tǫdzı winter habitat around Whatì and how they use islands in this area.

Project Outcomes or Intended Outcomes:
Final Report: Tǫdzı (boreal caribou) and the State of Their Habitat.
https://www.cclmportal.ca/resource/todzi-boreal-caribou-and-state-their-habitat

Principal Researcher: Allice Legat

Community Researchers: Camilla Nitsiza and Charlie J Nitsiza

Report Authors (see resource): Allice Legat and Mary McCreadie

 

Sahtú Environmental Management Decision-Support Project

Project Description:

ALCES models future changes based on known environment and landscape cover, an understanding of historic changes, and projected indicators of change to the environment, human footprint and landscape.

The project provides a forum to look at potential future outcomes of environmental changes to support decision-making in the Sahtu. Partnered with the Sahtu Environmental Research and Monitoring Forum, community members are helping define future scenarios of landscape change. These scenarios are then used to project simulations over the next 50 years. Simulations are being developed for climate and fire, population and settlements, energy and mining development, woodland caribou range disturbance and mountain caribou population dynamics.

Project Outcomes or Intended Outcomes:

Presentation available here:
https://www.cclmportal.ca/resource/sahtu-environmental-models-presentation

Sahtu Regional Environmental Decision Support Tool Set presentation:
https://www.cclmportal.ca/resource/sahtu-regional-environmental-decision-support-tool-set

 

 

Influence of Forest Harvesting on Predator-prey Dynamics Among Mountain Caribou, Sympatric Ungulates, and Predators

Project Description:

Southern mountain caribou in British Columbia have experienced rapid population decline due to human-mediated changes to forest communities and a resulting increase in predation. The majority of past research has focused on broad-scale relationships between habitat composition and the distribution of caribou. We sought to identify the mechanistic drivers of predation risk as they relate to a range of forest-management strategies. We investigated the effect of three forest-harvest prescriptions on the co-occurrence of caribou, sympatric ungulates, and predators: unharvested old-growth, clearcut harvesting, and group-selection harvesting. Group-selection is the legally mandated harvesting system for specific southern mountain caribou habitat because it restricts stand removal to 33% by area. That partial cutting strategy maintains old-forest structure and arboreal lichen. However, this system may create an environment that is more attractive to sympatric ungulates during snow-free periods. We deployed and lured 57 wildlife cameras to investigate how human-mediated plant community dynamics influenced the distribution of caribou, moose, mule deer, and predators.

Project Outcomes or Intended Outcomes:

Our preliminary results identify distinct differences in habitat use among the target species. Caribou avoided all areas where forest harvesting had occurred. Moose used the group-selection treatment most frequently. Mule deer favored clearcuts in spring while moose used that treatment in summer. Grizzly and black bears used stands harvested by group-selection more often than clearcut. Our findings suggest that forest management implemented to provide forage for mountain caribou may increase predation risk, potentially leading to further population decline.