Canadian Forest Service Publications

Examining management scenarios to mitigate wildfire hazard to caribou conservation projects using burn probability modeling. Stockdale, C., Barber, Q.E., Saxena, A., & Parisien, M. -A. (2019). Journal of environmental management, 233, 238-248.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40421

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.12.035

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Abstract

The boreal forests of Alberta have extensive networks of legacy seismic exploration lines that have been linked to the decline of boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) populations throughout the region. In order to improve habitat quality for caribou, energy companies are investing significant resources in the restoration of many of these seismic lines in key areas, however, frequent large and intense wildfires may compromise the effectiveness of these conservation measures. To minimize the wildfire risk, managers need to know the likelihood of wildfire and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. We undertook a wildfire risk assessment across the Cold Lake caribou range where we used the Burn-P3 model to determine: a) burn probability; b) wildfire risk to restored seismic line areas; and c) the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The burn probability of the landscape was highly heterogeneous, and recent large burns and some waterbodies provided “shields” that reduced burn probability on their leeward sides. We designed mitigation scenarios to mimic the shielding effect of waterbodies and large recent burns by modeling the effects of increase suppression activity and fuel conversion within intensive management zones upwind of the resources to be protected. We found that these intensive management zones reduced the burn probability and wildfire hazard in the restored habitat areas but the effect declined rapidly as distance from the treatment zones increased. If land managers want to minimize the risk of losing their investments in caribou conservation to wildfire, it would be preferable to have mitigation measures spatially targeted closer to the conservation areas. Furthermore, it would be advisable to have redundancy in any conservation measures and wildfire-risk mitigations to ensure that losses due to wildfire on one area do not jeopardize all conservation projects within the landscape.

Plain Language Summary

The seismic exploration lines of the boreal forests of Alberta have been linked to the decline of the boreal woodland caribou populations throughout the region. To improve habitat quality for the caribou, energy companies are investing resources to restore seismic lines in key areas. Frequent large and intense wildfires may compromise the effectiveness of these conservation measures. To minimize wildfire risk, managers need to know the likelihood of wildfire and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. We undertook a wildfire risk assessment across the Cold Lake caribou range. We found that intensive fuel management zones reduced the burn probability and wildfire hazard in the restored habitat areas but the effect declined rapidly as distance from the treatment zones increased. To minimize losing caribou habitat to wildfire, it would be ideal to have mitigation measures near conservation areas.