research

> Research & Monitoring Subcommittee annual report for 2008-09.

For more information on the ACC research please visit the Boreal Caribou Research Program website

 

ARTICLES:

Sorensen, Troy; McLoughlin, Philip D.; Hervieux, Dave; Dzu, Elston; Nolan, Jack; Wynes, Bob; Boutin, Stan: Determining sustainable levels of cumulative effects for boreal caribou. Journal of Wildlife Management 72 (4): 900-905. Click here to download

Dalerum, F., S. Boutin and J. S. Dunford. 2007. Wildfire effects on home range size and fidelity of boreal caribou in Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology 85: 26-32. Click here to download

Wittmer, H.U., McLellan, B.N., Serrouya, R., and Apps, C.D. 2007. Changes in landscape composition influence the decline of a threatened woodland caribou population. Journal of Animal Ecology 76: 568-579. Click here to download

Dunford et al. 2006. Lichen abundance in the peatlands of northern Alberta: implications for boreal caribou.
Ecoscience 13: 469-474. Click here to download

Gustine et al. 2006. Calf Survival of Woodland Caribou in a Multi-Predator Ecosystem.
Wildlife Monographs 165:1-32.
Click here to download

 

LITERATURE:

> The BCRP website literature section (with pdf versions of theses)
> Acrobat Reader (pdf) list of the ACC literature

 

CARIBOU LITERATURE CITATION DATABASE:

Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Literature Citation Database

Keith D. Wade, Matthew Meadows, W. James Rettie, and Arthur R. Rodgers

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada; 2Biology Department, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada; 3Parks Canada Agency, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Cite as: Wade, K. D., M. Meadows, W. J. Rettie, and A. R. Rodgers. 2006. Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) literature citation database. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research, Northern Mammal Ecology Program. Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Forest-dwelling woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are declining throughout their North American range. The decline in woodland caribou range occupancy in Ontario has been recognized since the late 1950s and the boreal population of forest-dwelling woodland caribou is designated as ‘Threatened’ both provincially (COSSARO 2005) and federally (COSEWIC 2002). In support of scientific research to address pressing concerns for the species, we have prepared a citation database of North American and Eurasian published and “grey” literature on all aspects of caribou biology and ecology. Dr. Jim Rettie generously provided his personal database of over 600 citations to be built upon. An exhaustive search for all journal papers, conference proceedings, M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses, government reports, and other unpublished manuscripts concerning woodland caribou of all ecotypes (forest-alpine, migratory forest-tundra, and migratory and non-migratory forest-dwelling caribou) was made using multiple search methods and bibliographic sources. Literature on barren ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) and Eurasian reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) has been included to fill knowledge gaps in North American woodland caribou ecology or to augment less well-investigated aspects of their ecology. For example, the Fennoscandian literature is generally more extensive on nutritional studies, animal physiology, reindeer food biochemistry and range plant/foraging ecology, and therefore many of those papers have been included.

The literature citations are current to November 2006 and are available in three formats; Adobe PDF, ProCite 5.0 and Microsoft Excel 2003. In total, the database includes 2,318 entries, of which 1,275 are peer reviewed journal papers or theses and 1,043 may be considered “grey literature”, which includes non-refereed conference proceedings, government reports, and unpublished manuscripts. All file formats will be periodically updated.

Although we have thoroughly proofread the database to ensure the currency and accuracy of the information presented, we cannot absolutely guarantee that it is entirely without error and recommend users verify any information derived from it before further use. The authors assume no responsibility or liability for any inaccurate, delayed or incomplete information, nor for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Please report any errors or omissions to Dr. A. Rodgers.

http://blue.lakeheadu.ca/cld/

 

CURRENT PROJECTS:

To support range-specific planning and cumulative effects modelling, the ACC has been involved in the following ongoing projects: Population Monitoring, Evaluating Seismic Lines and Predation, Caribou Calf Predation (Pilot study), Caribou Habitat Selection and Predation Risk, and Caribou Distribution-Industry Relationships. The BCRP also supports ongoing research with the Caribou Range Restoration Project (CRRP).
> West Central Research Summary Jan 2007

Population Monitoring

The ACC conducts an ongoing program to monitor populations among eight caribou ranges in Alberta and western Saskatchewan. Caribou population trends appear to be declining in most ranges. Please see our BCRP web page for more details, or visit the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to obtain the most recent woodland caribou status report.

Evaluation of Low Impact Seismic Operations

A key role of the research program is to encourage innovative industrial practices and to evaluate their effectiveness for conserving caribou populations. A winter field program studying the potential of “seismic line blocking” for reducing wolf use of linear features was recently completed. Using non-permanent fencing, felled trees across seismic lines, and motion-sensitive cameras, we have begun testing whether barriers may be effective at reducing wolf travel into caribou ranges, and modeling caribou-wolf encounter probabilities near linear features.

Calf Predation Pilot Study

The ACC initiated a pilot project examining caribou calf predation this spring. Observers followed female caribou with calves in May and June, and recorded the fates of caribou calves. Analysis of the data is ongoing, but will compare indices of predator and industrial activity near females that retained their calves with those females that lost their calves. We also will evaluate whether our methods are suitable for more detailed monitoring of calf survival.

Caribou Habitat Selection and Predation Risk

Using previously collected data on caribou habitat selection and mortality locations, we studied how caribou habitat selection related to predation. Results of this project indicate that the core of large peatland complexes are preferred by caribou, and offer the best protection from wolves. This data indicates that such areas are key habitats to conserve when planning industrial activities.

Caribou Distribution-Industry Relationships

High resolution GPS data is being used to evaluate the distribution of caribou before and after intense oil and gas development in northeastern Alberta. In areas of Alberta that are likely to experience localized and intense industrial activity, this information will be used to predict if caribou will shift their annual ranges or distribution.

Factors affecting caribou survival in northern Alberta: the role of wolves, moose, and linear features

Nicole McCutchen, PhD

The spatial segregation of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) from predators and alternative prey has been well documented and is often cited as necessary for the persistence of local herds. For example, boreal caribou in northern Alberta predominantly inhabit peatlands whereas moose (Alces alces) and wolves (Canis lupus) are more likely to be found in the surrounding uplands. Presumably, wolves focus on moose because they are larger and more abundant than caribou. However, recent declines in a number of herds suggest that the peatlands no longer provide refuge from wolf predation.

The full text of the thesis is available here.

 

COMPLETED PROJECTS:

More information regarding past projects and a list of publications can be found at the Boreal Caribou Research Program (BCRP) homepage. Highlights of some past research projects from graduate students include:

Woodland Caribou-Wildfire Relationships in Northern Alberta

Jess Dunford, University of Alberta

Jess recently completed data collection and analysis of how caribou may alter their behaviour and habitat use in response to wildfires. Project results indicate that caribou habitat recovers relatively quickly following wildfires, but confirms the notion that wildfires decrease food availability for caribou. The occurrence of wildfires does not appear to alter the distribution of caribou in Alberta though, indicating that caribou may be able to cope with forage loss from wildfires through selective habitat use. Simulation modeling using ALCES ® indicated that wildfires occurrence may play a limited role in population trends over time. Jess suggests that the persistence of caribou populations will largely be determined from effective management of industrial footprints, rather than natural disturbance agents such as wildfire.

The full text of the thesis is available here.

Modeling the Future of Woodland Caribou in Northern Alberta

Piotr Weclaw, University of Alberta

Piotr developed a computer simulation model for the assessment of complex cumulative effects on caribou populations. Based on simulation experiments, Piotr argues that in natural boreal ecosystems, caribou could coexist with uncontrolled wolf (Canis lupus) populations. He suggests that habitat is not limiting to caribou populations, and the most detrimental factor to caribou populations is the functional loss of habitat due to industrial infrastructures. His study also indicates that wolf control is not a practical solution to population declines. Piotr believes that future research should focus on the productivity of the ecosystem, and the mechanism governing caribou avoidance of industrial infrastructures.

The full text of the thesis is available here.

An Evaluation of the Woodland Caribou Management Process in Alberta

John MacDonald, University of Calgary

In January 2000 the ACC Guidelines Subcommittee was formed to review existing industrial operating guidelines from across northern Alberta and draft a set of consolidated guidelines for implementation on designated northern Alberta caribou ranges. John analyzed the participatory nature of the ACC and the dispute resolution techniques employed through the BCC Guidelines Subcommittee. John made specific recommendations for the improvement of the public participatory process within the BCC. The potential of the proposed guidelines to reduce the cumulative effects of development in caribou range was also evaluated. John argues that Government policy adjustments must be made for the management of the cumulative amount of activity on caribou range.

The full text of the thesis is available here.

Effects of Industrial Development on the Predator-Prey Relationship Between Wolves and Caribou in Northeastern Alberta

Adam James, University of Alberta

Between 1993 and 1997, Adam studied how industrial development may potentially affect woodland caribou populations by influencing their predator-prey relationship with wolves. He found that selection of fen/bog complexes by caribou and selection of well-drained habitats by moose and wolves resulted in spatial separation. The spatial separation of caribou and moose reduced predation pressure on caribou. Adam also found that caribou were significantly further from linear corridors than expected, and wolf locations were closer to linear corridors. Caribou mortalities attributed to wolf predation were closer to linear corridors than were live locations, indicating that caribou that were close to linear corridors were at risk of being killed by wolves. Wolves also travelled faster on linear corridors than in the surrounding forest. Adam argues that increased industrial activity in and near caribou range could have a significant effect on caribou population dynamics by increasing predation.

The full text of the thesis is available here.

Peatland Habitat Use and Selection by Woodland Caribou in Northern Alberta

Robert Anderson, University of Alberta

Treed-peatland areas are considered crucial for caribou survival in northeastern Alberta. Robert’s work determined if conclusions about caribou habitat in northeastern Alberta were applicable to northwestern Alberta. Analysis of coarse-scale data revealed that boreal woodland caribou are not restricted to landscapes dominated by treed fens and bogs. In fact, caribou in the southern portion of the Red Earth range are found in an upland-dominated landscape. However, fine-scale analysis revealed that caribou in both an upland-dominated landscape use and select treed peatlands extensively. These results indicate that coarse-scale peatland mapping does not identify all of the peatland complexes used by caribou. Robert also suggests changes to caribou range maps should, therefore, be conducted using both coarse-scale and fine-scale peatland inventory data.

The full text of the thesis is available here.

Movement and Distribution of Woodland Caribou in Response to Industrial Development in Northeastern Alberta

Simon Dyer, University of Alberta

Simon examined whether woodland caribou use areas adjacent to well sites, roads and seismic lines as often as they use areas away from these disturbances. Analyses were performed on caribou locations, controlling for vegetation cover classes to remove confounding effects of habitat. There was reduced use of habitats near human developments in the study; the degree of reduction in use appeared to be related to the level of human activity in the study area.  Maximum 'reduced use' distances of 1000 m (wells) and 250 m (roads and seismic lines) were recorded.

Simon also tested whether roads and seismic lines acted as barriers to caribou movements.  Seismic lines were not barriers to caribou movements, while roads acted as partial barriers to caribou movements throughout the study period. Results from Simon’s study can be used to develop knowledge-based management strategies to better balance caribou conservation with sustainable resource extraction in caribou habitat. 

The full text of the thesis is available here.

An assessment of the Effects of Petroleum Exploration on Woodland Caribou in Northeastern Alberta

Corey Bradshaw, University of Alberta

Research by Corey was among the first to use the ACC’s telemetry database to document the habitat selection of woodland caribou in Alberta. Corey also monitored to the response of caribou to simulated petroleum exploration activities. He found that caribou encounters with a single disturbance (i.e., loud noise) were unlikely to cause deleterious energy consumption by caribou. However, the energetic consequences of multiple disturbances could result in winter mass loss for caribou, indicating that at higher exploration intensities, caribou health may deteriorate.

 

IMPORTANT CONTACTS:

Interested in participating in future research projects?

Please contact George Hamilton, Interm Program Manager, at the address below to discuss how your company can become a part of the ACC.

George Hamilton, Interm Program Manager
Wildlife Management Branch
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
2nd Floor, Great West Life Bldg.,
9920 - 108 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2M4
Telephone: (780) 415-2001
Fax: (780) 422-9557
Email: George.Hamilton@gov.ab.ca