Historical changes in caribou distribution and land cover in and around Prince Albert National Park: land management implications
Keywords:boreal forest, caribou distribution, fire management, landscape change, landscape fragmentation, population history, Prince Albert National Park, Rangifer tarandus caribou, woodland caribou
In central Saskatchewan, boreal woodland caribou population declines have been documented in the 1940s and again in the 1980s. Although both declines led to a ban in sport hunting, a recovery was only seen in the 1950s and was attributed to wolf control and hunting closure. Recent studies suggest that this time, the population may not be increasing. In order to contribute to the conservation efforts, historical changes in caribou distribution and land cover types in the Prince Albert Greater Ecosystem (PAGE), Saskatchewan, were documented for the period of 1960s to the present. To examine changes in caribou distribution, survey observations, incidental sightings and telemetry data were collated. To quantify landscape changes, land cover maps were created for 1966 and 2006 using current and historic forest resources inventories, fire, logging, and roads data. Results indicate that woodland caribou are still found throughout the study area although their distribution has changed and their use of the National Park is greatly limited. Results of transition prob¬abilities and landscape composition analyses on the 1966 and 2006 land cover maps revealed an aging landscape for both the National Park and provincial crown land portions of the PAGE. In addition, increased logging and the development of extensive road and trail networks on provincial crown land produced significant landscape fragmentation for woodland caribou and reduced functional attributes of habitat patches. Understanding historical landscape changes will assist with ongoing provincial and federal recovery efforts for boreal caribou, forest management planning activities, and landscape restoration efforts within and beyond the Park boundaries.
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