habitat monitoring

Content related to: habitat monitoring

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:

Sahtu Regional Environmental Decision Support Tool Set presentation:



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.

Living in a Burned Landscape: Woodland Caribou use of Postfire Residual Patches for Calving in a High Fire- low Anthropogenic Boreal Shield Ecozone

Project Description:

Monitoring of calving events using 2 years of GPS data from 56 collared female caribou to identify calving site selection.

Project Outcomes or Intended Outcomes:

Providing insight into the ecological interactions of forest fires and woodland caribou in northern Saskatchewan to provide information that will support amendments to the Recovery Strategy that acknowledge the unique conditions observed on the landscape. 


Population and Habitat Ecology of Boreal Caribou and their Predators in the Saskatchewan Boreal Shield

Research completed by the University of Saskatchewan in collaboration with a consortium of industry and government partners. Research included a multi-faceted program on the population dynamics and critical habitat of woodland (boreal) caribou in the SK1 administrative unit.

The program was designed to address information gaps about caribou habitat and population dynamics closely aligned with information required by Environment and Climate Change Canada as part of the 2012 federal Recovery Strategy.

Satellite Observation of Regional Cumulative Effects on Wildlife Habitats (SORCE)

This project is a part of the Government of Canada’s initiative for monitoring and assessing regional cumulative effects, a recently added requirement to the new Impact Assessment Act (2019). Among various “valued components” to be assessed, caribou stand out as one of the top priorities because of their importance to the economy, culture, and way of life for indigenous peoples. Previous caribou dietary studies indicate that lichens are the most important food for woodland caribou, especially during the winter and fall. Yet, despite many effects over the years, information on lichen distribution within the various caribou ranges of Canada remains unreliable or unavailable. To fill the information gap, this project aims to map and detect temporal and spatial changes in lichen distribution for selected caribou ranges in Canada. This is a joint effort by scientists from the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, the Canadian Forest Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, provincial/territorial governments, and other partners. Landsat imagery has been widely used by previous researchers to generate lichen distribution maps with low reported accuracies. The main challenge for producing lichen maps from this moderate (30m) resolution sensor is the mixture of lichen with other land cover types (e.g., trees, rocks, shrubs, etc.) within the 30m pixel size. To address this, we are designing and testing a new scaling-up approach. We start with sub-millimeter resolution plot photos and scale them up using centimeter resolution UAV data, half-meter resolution Worldview satellite data, and finally to the 30-m Landsat imagery. In this way, we expect to substantially increase the size of our “ground truth” database, and improve the overall accuracy of lichen distribution and change maps that we generate from this data. In addition, we will develop innovative approaches for mapping lichen cover (abundance) and biomass, and producing related change detection products using cutting-edge technology (e.g., artificial intelligence, big data analytics).


Intended Project Outcomes:

  • Baseline maps of lichen distribution and abundance for selected caribou ranges, such as the Red Wine Mountain Range (Labrador); Manicouagan Range (Québec); Missisa Range (Ontario); Bathurst Range (Northwest Territories), Little Smoky (Alberta)
  • Temporal and spatial changes of lichen distribution and abundance caused by human and natural disturbances for selected caribou ranges, such as the Red Wine Mountain Range (Labrador); Manicouagan Range (Québec); Missisa Range (Ontario); Bathurst Range (Northwest Territories), Little Smoky (Alberta)
  • Methods and protocols for lichen mapping and change detection