Assessing the importance of climate change on the distribution of boreal caribou

Scientists at the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) are working with Environment and Climate Change Canada to develop habitat models to reduce uncertainty regarding the  distribution of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population (“boreal caribou”), at broad scales under future climate conditions.

Climate may affect the distribution of boreal caribou through habitat productivity, winter severity and the distribution of competitors and predators. Principal component analysis (PCA) is being used to summarize a series of standard climate variables across Canada’s boreal region into homogenous domains that define the climate space of boreal caribou.

This study evaluates which climate domains boreal caribou occupies and models their distribution as a function of each climate PCA axis, controlling for habitat, fire and human disturbance. Boreal caribou occupy a relatively limited but common set of climate domains featuring mid-range temperatures and low precipitation relative to the boreal region.

External team members:  Cheryl Johnson (Environment and Climate Change Canada)