Prioritizing the restoration of fragmented boreal landscapes for caribou protection

Exploring for non-renewable natural resources in boreal regions of western Canada involves the creation of seismic lines to access resource deposits. Creating linear disturbances in forests, seismic lines have caused habitat fragmentation and increased predator access leading to a decline in woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population (“boreal caribou”).

Scientists at the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) are developing an economic optimization model to determine landscape restoration strategies that maximize boreal caribou habitat in fragmented landscapes and assess economic trade-offs between implementing habitat protection and forest harvesting. This model is being applied to find optimal seismic line restoration strategies in the Cold Lake area of Alberta, Canada.

Decision-makers strive to develop conservation strategies that can sustain boreal caribou populations while keeping exploration project costs within budget. This study reveals the trade-offs between these strategies and other competing objectives, such as mining or forest harvesting, and finds restoration solutions under a limited budget. The approach is generalizable and applicable to other regions where boreal caribou are sensitive to changes in landscape connectivity.

External team members: Robert G. Haight (United States Forest Service, Northern Research Station), Frank H. Koch (United States Forest Service, Southern Research Station), Cole Burton (University of British Columbia), Salimur Choudhury (Lakehead University)