Human impact on natural landscapes is increasing in extent and occurs in different ecosystems than ever before. It is therefore becoming essential to implement and evaluate ecosystem restoration options. The project team at Wildlife Infometrics is drawing on the experience gained from extensive field studies of woodland caribou in northern British Columbia, and in testing direct population conservation management strategies, to quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of landscape-scale ecosystem management aimed at restoring natural predator-prey dynamics in areas that have undergone extensive disturbance.
The LiDea Forest Habitat Restoration Project was initiated in partnership with Cenovus Energy Ltd. to conduct a large-scale experiment in restorative ecosystem management in Alberta. This multi-year research project in the Cold Lake boreal caribou herd area is designed to monitor how predators on moose and caribou (wolves and bears) respond to human-caused creation and restoration of habitat disturbance features, in terms of behavior and population demographics. Restoration activities are focused on linear features such as seismic lines, and employ techniques such as tree planting, tree felling, and stem bending in order to reduce line-of-sight and travel efficiency for predators, as well as mounding to improve growth rates for regenerating trees.
The monitoring program consists of fieldwork monitoring predator/prey dynamics at landscape- to site-level scales, and models for assessing the projected long-term effectiveness of linear feature deactivation and restoration. The protocol behind LiDea is based on ecological theory (e.g., functional and numerical responses of predators/prey) and to links into operational-level monitoring efforts by industry, government, and First Nations.
In addition to field-based monitoring studies, Wildlife Infometrics analysts have developed population models for testing and comparing the efficacy of different pathways on the likelihood of achieving recovery of caribou populations, including predator management, protection of females during calving, and translocation of females.
Funding and project support is provided by Cenovus Energy Ltd., the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC), Buffalo River Dene First Nation via Environment Canada’s Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR) program, and the Government of Alberta.