• Author / Creator
    Neveux, Yannick
  • Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are a vital component of the cultural history and contemporary existence of First Nations and northern communities. However, caribou habitat is increasingly threatened by cumulative effects of climate change and land-use pressures from human settlement, forestry, and energy or mineral exploration. Of notable concern are rapid changes in the boreal region of Canada, which is mostly publicly owned, and supports a quarter of the world's remaining intact forest. I used downscaled climate projections and anthropogenic disturbance data, as inputs to niche models to project potential changes in vegetation and caribou occurrence across western North America, over the next century. This allowed me to compare potential projected changes between climate only, climate +vegetation, and climate+vegetation+roads models for northern and southern mountain, boreal, barren-ground and Grant’s caribou distributions. I concurrently identified areas in the Canadian boreal region that met intactness, ecologically-based size, and connectivity requirements for dynamic reserves. Consistent with other studies, vegetation projections show a considerable potential redistribution of vegetation through expansion of grasslands into current boreal forest, concomitant with expansion of temperate ecosystems northward and into higher elevations. Caribou models suggest that human activities are an important driver of current caribou distribution. Future projections suggest that climate change will push caribou niches further northward or upslope. With significant shifts in caribou distribution expected, I identified only a few potential climate refuges, inferring that impact on caribou could be severe. A significant shift in management strategies is needed, including the identification of areas in land-use planning to facilitate caribou climate adaptation. The scale and inherent uncertainty of climate and caribou data evaluated limit their use to broad-scale conservation. However, the road data I compiled can be used at finer scales, with more detailed caribou location data, to identify potential thresholds at which further development may impede caribou occupancy and survival, and thus support a balance between caribou conservation and economic development.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.