Nav: Home

Habitat restoration alone not enough to support threatened caribou: UBC study

November 27, 2019

New UBC research suggests restoring habitat may not be enough to save threatened woodland caribou--an iconic animal that's a major part of boreal forests in North America and a key part of the culture and economy of many Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Caribou populations have declined rapidly in recent decades across much of western Canada, including the oil sands region of northeastern Alberta. The researchers placed hidden cameras, known as "camera traps", in the area to see if replanting seismic lines has helped protect caribou by separating them from predators and fellow prey moving through the area.

Seismic lines, which are narrow strips of land cleared to make way for oil and gas exploration, are thought to disturb caribou habitat and promote faster travel for predators and food competitors. These lines do not recover quickly naturally, but are now being restored through replanting with native trees and natural features like mounds and tree debris.

"In theory, restoration should have made it much more difficult for predators to travel across the caribou range, but our cameras showed us a different picture," said lead author Erin Tattersall, who did the work as a master's student in forest sciences at UBC.

Predators like black bears and wolves, and prey like moose, used the restored seismic lines about as much as they used unrestored lines. Only white-tailed deer--a key caribou competitor --showed less use of the restored lines. Caribou preferred to use lines located in low-lying wetland areas, as well as more isolated lines--whether they'd been restored or not.

"In other words, restoration did not do much to keep caribou apart from their predators and competitors, at least not in the short term," Tattersall said.

The work, published last week in Biological Conservation, is one of the first to challenge the assumed impacts of a caribou recovery strategy, and researchers say it makes the case for more rigorous analysis of conservation methods.

"It's possible caribou will eventually recover in the area we studied, and other restoration approaches in other regions could also prove more immediately effective for caribou recovery," said senior author Cole Burton, a professor of forestry who leads the Wildlife Coexistence Lab at UBC. "But our results clearly show that we can't simply assume the best--it's necessary to closely monitor the actual results of restoration."

And while the study focuses on Alberta caribou, it can also be important for discussions on saving B.C. caribou, Burton added.

"We are seeing steep declines in many of B.C.'s caribou populations, and even total losses of some," he said. "Effective restoration of already degraded habitats will ultimately be critical to recovering our caribou."
-end-
Researchers with the University of Victoria's School of Environmental Studies and InnoTech Alberta's ecosystems management unit also contributed to the study.

Link to paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320719307013

Images (Flickr gallery): https://www.flickr.com/photos/ubcpublicaffairs/albums/72157711949903242

University of British Columbia

Related Predators Articles:

To warn or to hide from predators?: New computer simulation provides answers
Some toxic animals are bright to warn predators from attacking them, and some hide the warning colors, showing them only at the very last moment when they are about to be attacked.
Dragonflies are efficient predators
A study led by the University of Turku, Finland, has found that small, fiercely predatory damselflies catch and eat hundreds of thousands of insects during a single summer -- in an area surrounding just a single pond.
Predators to spare
In 2014, a disease of epidemic proportions gripped the West Coast of the US.
Red-winged blackbird nestlings go silent when predators are near
If you're a predator that eats baby birds -- say, an American crow -- eavesdropping on the begging calls of nestlings can be an easy way to find your next meal.
A decade after the predators have gone, Galapagos Island finches are still being spooked
On some of the Galapagos Islands where human-introduced predators of Darwin's finches were eradicated over a decade ago, the finches are still acting as though they are in danger, according to research published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Fear of predators causes PTSD-like changes in brains of wild animals
A new study by Western University demonstrates that the fear predators inspire can leave long-lasting traces in the neural circuitry of wild animals and induce enduringly fearful behaviour, comparable to effects seen in PTSD research.
Fear of predators increases risk of illness
Predators are not only a deadly threat to many animals, they also affect potential prey negatively simply by being nearby.
New study questions effects of reintroducing top predators
There's little evidence that reintroducing top predators to ecosystems will return them to the conditions that existed before they were wiped out, according to new research.
'Seeing' tails help sea snakes avoid predators
New research has revealed the fascinating adaptation of some Australian sea snakes that helps protect their vulnerable paddle-shaped tails from predators.
How water fleas detect predators
Water fleas of the genus Daphnia detect via chemical substances if their predators, namely Chaoborus larvae, are hunting in their vicinity.
More Predators News and Predators Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.