Lichen, a symbiotic organism composed of fungi and algae, is an essential food for caribou during winter in British Columbia. Terrestrial lichens, those that grow on the ground, are especially important as forage for the northern mountain ecotype of caribou – those caribou that tend to spend the early winter period at low elevations where they crater (dig) for forage. When cratering at low-elevations becomes too difficult, northern mountain caribou move to open, windswept areas at higher elevations where cratering is easier. As resource managers become increasingly attentive towards maintaining this important ecological relationship, research is needed to understand how the abundance and availability of terrestrial forage lichen is affected by anthropogenic activities.
Wildlife Infometrics staff and associates are conducting a longitudinal study to document lichen abundance following logging under different types of timber harvesting systems in the Mackenzie Timber Supply Area. We are also monitoring the response of terrestrial lichen communities to disturbance by mountain pine beetle and fire. In addition, we conduct lichen abundance surveys to provide forestry companies who operate within caribou Ungulate Winter Range with the information they need to maintain appropriate levels of forage lichen within harvested areas.
Our goal is to continue to monitor terrestrial lichen abundance and composition and share findings with forest managers, to help further refine management recommendations for maintaining viable caribou habitat on multi-use landscapes.
Funding for these projects is generally provided by our clients and partners in the forest industry and by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Peace Region Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program; the latter on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and Public Stakeholders who work together to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by existing BC Hydro dams.