Supporting Caribou by Studying Forage Lichens

Project Year: 2016-2017

View Provincial Database Record

Caribou: Steve Rooke

Project Lead

Wildlife Infometrics Inc.

Watershed/Sub-region

Peace Region

Basin-Wide

Project Type

Monitoring & Evaluation

FWCP Contribution

$56,100

Action Plan Alignment

Species of Interest Action Plan

Project ID

PEA-F17-W-1315

Effects of Logging and MPB on Caribou Forage Lichens

This project assesses the effects of Mountain Pine Beetles (MPB) and forest harvesting on caribou terrestrial forage lichens on the Chase, Wolverine and Scott Caribou winter ranges. Permanent plots were previously established at five sites between 2001 and 2008, prior to MPB and forest harvesting. As part of a long-term adaptive management trial, specific forest harvesting treatments were applied and the plots were re-measured following harvest. All plots on all sites will be re-measured in 2016 to assess the combined effects of the forest harvest treatments and MPB attack.

Information from this project will assist in assessing the effects of habitat alteration due to MPB and forest harvesting on habitat supply and population dynamics for the Wolverine, Scott and Chase Caribou herds. The short-term benefit of this project will be to inform best management practices for caribou terrestrial forage lichens in the short-term (0-10 years), to provide caribou terrestrial forage lichen availability in low-elevation winter range for caribou. Identifying long- and short-term impacts of Mountain Pine Beetles and different forest harvesting methods on caribou terrestrial forage lichen availability will allow for better operational decisions regarding forest harvesting, which will benefit long-term caribou herd survival.


Final Report: Executive Summary

In north-central British Columbia (BC), caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in the Chase, Wolverine, and Scott ranges (Omineca caribou) are part of the Southern Mountain Caribou (SMC) population, which is listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act (Environment Canada 2014). During winter, Omineca caribou use low elevation lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests where they forage for terrestrial lichens. The recent mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae; MPB) epidemic and increased forest harvesting pressures on Omineca caribou winter ranges have led to concerns about habitat supply and caribou population dynamics. This project assesses response of caribou terrestrial lichens in the Omineca area to six forest harvesting treatments 12-14 years following treatment, and to MPB attack, using previously established permanently marked plots. Information from this project will assist in assessing the effects of habitat alteration due to MPB and forest harvesting on habitat supply and population dynamics for the Wolverine, Scott and Chase caribou populations.

The goal of this project is to better understand terrestrial caribou forage lichen dynamics following habitat alteration in order to develop conservation practices for the sustainable supply of forage for caribou. Specific objectives for 2016-17 include: 1) re-measuring terrestrial lichen abundance, competing vegetation abundance, stand structure, regeneration and coarse woody debris at five sites in MPB-killed stands and post-forest harvest sites in the Omineca area, and 2) assessing changes in forest floor vegetation dynamics, stand structure, and coarse woody debris accumulation since pre-MPB measurements at control plots, and since post-harvesting measurements at harvested plots.

This project aligns with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program’s Species of Interest Action Plan in that it addresses Action 1b-2 ‘Implement projects identified through approved recovery strategies, action plans, and management plans’ by addressing three recovery approaches in “The Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada” (Environment Canada 2014): 1) measure and monitor habitat alteration to southern mountain caribou habitat; 2) assess the impact of natural disturbance (e.g. forest fire, mountain pine beetle, pine rusts) on the long-term habitat management of southern mountain caribou ranges; and, 3) monitor habitat and use adaptive management to assess progress and adjust management activities as appropriate. This project evaluates the impact of MPB and six different forest harvesting regimes on caribou terrestrial forage lichens using previously established permanent plots.

Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database