habitat restoration

Content related to: habitat restoration

The Boreal Caribou Ecological Model

The Boreal Caribou Ecological Model

Developed by the Habitat Restoration Working Group (HRWG) of the National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium (NBCKC).

Habitat restoration is expected to play a key role in the recovery of boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada. Population declines are correlated with the proportion of ranges affected by anthropogenic and natural disturbances and reversing these impacts is expected to benefit caribou populations. However, there are various mechanisms that lead from habitat stressors to caribou declines, and the effects of these mechanisms differ among ranges. Understanding the ecological pathways driving observed relationships can inform restoration planning by: 1) directing treatments towards the most critical, range-specific mechanisms; 2) identifying possible confounding factors that need to be addressed; and, 3) supporting adaptive management by generating testable hypotheses and clarifying monitoring needs.

Here we present a conceptual Boreal Caribou Conceptual Ecological Model developed by the Habitat Restoration Working Group of the National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium. The model is composed of 14 factors and associated relationships that generate pathways leading from a variety of landscape disturbance stressors. The model does not capture all possible factors in the system, but only those that are likely exerting significant effects. Nor does it address specific restoration treatment options but it can inform the design of treatments by identifying the functional effects that treatments should be addressing.

Caribou survival and recruitment are affected directly by predation, nutrition, disease and hunting. All of these link back to one or more habitat stressors that drive the national disturbance model (i.e., fire, insect pests, forest alteration/clearing and linear development). The pathways are interacting and are also affected by external factors (e.g., climate change). The habitat stressors alter forage available to caribou and to other primary prey, the distribution and abundance of primary prey, associated predators and of humans, and ultimately cause population declines via lower caribou survival and reproductive success.

A key next step for the conceptual model is the development of appropriate response metrics to monitor. This would provide the means to compare the relative effects of different drivers among ranges and would highlight key knowledge gaps. The model would then provide a complete framework for adaptive management as habitat restoration is implemented.

Tools developed by the Habitat Restoration Working Group:

  • The Boreal Caribou Ecological Model (current page)
    • Infographic [link to project page]
    • Technical Report [link to project page]
    • Restoration Practices Literature Report (in prep)

To learn more about caribou habitat restoration please visit our 'Caribou Habitat Restoration' page [link to project page].

National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium (NBCKC)

To learn more about the NBCKC, please visit our interactive story map, available in English and French!

The National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium (NBCKC), which launched in 2018 under Canada’s federal action plan for boreal caribou, is a forum for knowledge sharing, knowledge generation, and knowledge mobilization. Members of the NBCKC represent provincial and territorial governments, Wildlife Management Boards, Indigenous Peoples and communities, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, and academic researchers. Several representatives who are part of the NBCKC are also members of a parallel body known as the Indigenous Knowledge Circle (IKC). The IKC advocates for the respectful inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge, supports the transition towards Indigenous-led management to support the recovery of caribou, and, provides opportunities for learning about what is working and not working in Indigenous contexts.
NBCKC group photo

The NBCKC also includes several working groups and knowledge networks that were formed to assess what we already know, to ask what we still need to know, and to determine how to apply what we know to maximize caribou conservation and recovery goals. These groups currently include:

  • The Monitoring Working Group
  • The Habitat Restoration Working Group
  • The Population Management Working Group
  • The Chronic Wasting Disease Knowledge Network

The NBCKC sets ambitious targets and deadlines in order to resolve remaining knowledge gaps by developing impactful guidance meant to inform caribou managers as they structure their respective programs. They have built a powerful interactive map and populated it with over 100 caribou projects, the majority of which involve Indigenous peoples. Despite boasting a large membership consisting of keen, skilled, and focused individuals, the NBCKC has been able to reach even higher levels of relevance and impact by joining our efforts with those of other initiatives. 

Follow this link to browse the repository of newsletters, guidance documents, best practices, tool kits and other resources that have been developed collaboratively by the NBCKC housed on our boreal caribou portal. You can refine these results by using the filters on the left or begin a new search at the top of the screen. We hope that you will use the NBCKC caribou portal as your go-to resource for information concerning boreal caribou conservation and recovery.