Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project M085236

    Implications of salvage scale: mountain pine beetle and integrity of woodland caribou winter ranges
 
Project lead: McNay, Scott (McGregor Model Forest Association)
Contributing Authors: McNay, R. Scott; Sulyma, Randy; Voller, Joan; Brumovsky, Viktor J.; Fall, S. Andrew; McCann, Robert K.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Description:
This 1-year research project will provide operational guidance for large-scale harvest of mountain pine beetle (MPB) infected forests in a manner that mitigates detrimental effects to the integrity of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) winter ranges. Woodland caribou are a species at risk under the Forest and Range Practices Act in BC and are commonly considered to be a leading indicator of biodiversity and ecosystem health in the boreal and sub-boreal forests (e.g., see ENGO programs such as Caribou Nation http://www.caribounation.org, Grey Ghosts http://23120.vws.magma.ca/work/caribou/index.php, and Staring at Extinction http://www.forestethics.org/article.php?id=1122). Low elevation pine (Pinus contorta) stands in the northern interior play a critical role for providing winter forage for caribou in the form of terrestrial lichens. The identification of these stands as winter habitat was recently undertaken in both the Ft. St. James and Mackenzie forest districts. The resulting areas were forwarded to Government for final legislative designation as Ungulate Winter Ranges (UWRs) and now require forest management strategies under Section 7 of the Forest Practices and Planning Regulation. However, information required to mitigate impacts to UWRs in the current- and post-MPB world is lacking and the topic of habitat supply was therefore recommended for investigation as a result of the Forests For Tomorrow expedited Silviculture 1 Strategies conducted for the Mackenzie Forest District in 2005/06. This project works toward providing the missing information and will establish recommendations for subsequent management of the UWRs. Two large provincial parks within the project area (the Chase and Omineca protected areas) were created with caribou as a high-priority management concern and outcomes from this project will also inform plans for conservation of caribou habitat wherever that is considered a priority park management objective. The most current science and understanding of northern caribou and terrestrial lichens were applied in the identification of the UWRs through scenario runs of the Caribou Habitat Assessment and Supply Estimator (CHASE, McNay et al. in press). CHASE is a modeling approach that consolidates knowledge about caribou behavior and their habitat into a transparent, graphical framework using management levers to effect resulting habitat quality. When linked with disturbance simulations (e.g., natural disturbance, development policy rules, etc.), CHASE projects indicators of habitat and timber supply into the future. In addition to being used as the basis for recovery planning (McNay et al. 2006), CHASE has been used to provide precise spatial depictions of where UWRs should be placed on the landscape. These locations were field verified but the MPB epidemic was not factored into the CHASE scenarios. Now, due to the epidemic, forest harvesting is focused in or immediately adjacent to forest types deemed critical for northern caribou. Over the next 2 decades, a large portion of the current mature pine will die and/or be harvested (Eng et al. 2005). There are numerous uncertainties to be considered in the evaluation of potential impacts of these forestry activities given the intent of managing for northern caribou recovery. We consider that most, but not all of these uncertainties are landscape-level rather than stand-level issues because: 1. Previous studies have shown that terrestrial lichens may be maintained under natural pine mortality and some silviculture regimes (Sulyma and Wawryszyn 2001); and 2. Recovery planning for caribou (McNay et al. 2006.) has tended to focus not on forage values but on depredation of caribou exacerbated by creation of adjacent early seral conditions (i.e., conditions supporting increased prey for predators [Rettie and Messier 1998]) and roads (i.e., conditions supporting increased predator search efficiency [Dyer et al. 2001]). Under those conditions caribou apparently suffer more incidental predation from wolves than would otherwise occur (Racey et al. 1999). The increased mortality is exacerbated because caribou are possibly more susceptible to wolf predation than other ungulates (Thomas 1995). We propose to use a mountain pine beetle disturbance simulation (Eng et al. 2005) as a scenario in CHASE to characterize the landscape level uncertainties and to form the basis for designing and simulating the most efficient patterns of harvesting operations. A trade-off will be sought which balances the harvest scale and efficiency, current policy, and least impact on low elevation caribou winter range. A natural disturbance scenario will also be applied to provide a baseline reference for the natural effect of the MPB epidemic on the affected range availability.

    Deliverables:

Pine-Lichen Winter Range (Scenario 1) (24.0Mb)
Pine-Lichen Winter Range (Scenario 3) (24.0Mb)
Caribou Response to Mountain Pine Beetle Management (Workshop) (0.1Mb)
Wolverine Recovery Area (Scenario 1) (23.7Mb)
Wolverine Recovery Area (Scenario 3) (23.8Mb)
MPB Conference Abstract (0.7Mb)
FORREX Workshop Poster (0.5Mb)
Wildlife Infometrics Newsletter (Volume 3, Issue 1)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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