Boreal landcover change and implications for boreal caribou – using available tools

Boreal woodland caribou populations are in decline across Canada, and forest disturbance is an important driver. To assess the implications of ongoing natural and anthropogenic disturbance processes for boreal caribou we need projections of boreal landcover change over time. Development of reliable fine-scale projections of the impacts of climate change on boreal vegetation growth and succession will take some time. We cannot wait for better models in order to start addressing the immediate threats to boreal caribou persistence.

Forest management plans in Canada are generally premised on 100 year projections of forest growth, succession and harvest. These projections do not include effects of climate change, but it is possible to consider the impacts of changing fire regimes on projections derived from the inputs and outputs of operational planning models (Daniel et al. 2017). We are combining these projections with available caribou indicators and road network simulation methods to develop an initial model of the cumulative effects of fire and forest management on boreal caribou for an example range in Western Ontario.

Daniel, C. J., Ter-Mikaelian, M. T., Wotton, B. M., Rayfield, B., & Fortin, M.-J. (2017). Incorporating uncertainty into forest management planning: Timber harvest, wildfire and climate change in the boreal forest. FOREST ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT, 400, 542–554.