“Broad-scale landscape change is the primary threat to woodland caribou populations.”

Habitat loss is a leading cause of species endangerment and it inhibits the recovery of many Canadian endangered species, including woodland caribou. Broad-scale landscape change is the primary threat to woodland caribou populations by removing caribou habitat and disrupting predator-prey systems. Landscape alterations shift caribou habitats toward early-seral forests that favor other ungulate species, leading to increased predation on caribou via apparent competition.  Because of that, the focus of federal and provincial plans and policies targeting caribou recovery is habitat conservation and restoration. In this sense, measuring the direction, extent, and rate of habitat change within caribou ranges is essential to assess the effectiveness of such plans and policies at conserving habitat.

We are tracking habitat changes over time and space to understand drives of alterations (human vs. natural) and to determine whether changes in caribou habitat in British Columbia and Alberta are on a trend to meet recovery goals and objectives.

Our preliminary results indicate that:

  • Net habitat loss for woodland caribou has accelerated despite existing recovery planning and endangered species legislation.
  • Caribou subpopulations lost twice as much habitat as they gained since 2000.
  • Management actions that reduce the cumulative impacts of land use and to balance anthropogenic and natural disturbances are essential to achieve self-sustaining caribou populations.

“Despite ongoing efforts to help caribou under provincial and federal recovery plans, caribou subpopulations lost twice as much habitat as they gained.”