Presented by: Clara Superbie
The decline of boreal and mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is widely believed to be a result of anthropogenic and natural disturbance by means of disturbance-mediated apparent competition (DMAC). Here, landscape disturbance increases the abundance of browsing ungulates by reducing the seral age of forests, promoting predator numbers, and in turn heightening predation risk to caribou. However, research on the species has mostly focused on where caribou have been impacted by significant industrial disturbances, in relatively productive southern boreal and mountain systems. Yet, about 2/3 of the Canadian caribou population exists principally in northern taiga and shield habitat where logging is absent, and where other industrial activities are quasi-inexistent. In such wildfire-dominated ecoregions of low productivity, we know very little of how DMAC acts as a limiting factor to caribou. Here, we propose to summarize some of the results coming out of 6-years of research on the ecology of caribou living in the northern boreal shield of Saskatchewan. We propose to discuss if DMAC applies as a threat in this population and investigate how caribou and their predators respond to fire but extremely low levels of linear features. Put in perspectives with recently published studies on the topics, we raise questions about how to best protect northern caribou units which may serve as sources to southern caribou populations. Answers to these questions are important to both theoretical and applied ecology, including how we might improve caribou conservation.