Charlebois, M.L., Skatter, H.G., Kansas, J.L., and Crouse, D.P.


Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) occur throughout Canada’s boreal forest and have been declining both in distribution and population size along the southern extent of their range. Predation, hunting, and habitat loss/alteration due to industrial development are listed as potential causes of decline. Researchers have demonstrated that wolf (Canis lupus) movement rates are faster along human disturbances compared to adjacent forest and this poses increased predation risk for caribou. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is an optical scanning technology that uses lasers to measure distances between objects. This tool can be used to remotely measure vegetation cover and height over large areas. The objectives of this Alberta study were to: 1) utilize LiDAR and colour infrared imagery to map disturbances and to quantify and map levels of vegetation re-growth; 2) use field data to characterize vegetation structure and composition on different disturbance types and in different ecosites; and 3) correlate vegetation field data attributes with remotely sensed map data to assist in producing spatially explicit vegetation height and cover metrics that can be used for reclamation planning on a range of disturbance types and ecological site conditions. Our results indicate that there is a strong correlation between hiding cover data sampled in the field and hiding cover metrics derived by LiDAR. As such, land managers can use these light detection and ranging metrics as a tool for determining where restoration efforts should be prioritized. These metrics can also be used to describe access and line of sight conditions. In terms of vegetation recovery, upland ecosites showed the least residual effect from disturbance events. Conversely, bog and fen ecosites showed highest residual effect in terms of the lack of natural vegetation recovery. These results indicate that some habitat types in this part of Alberta do have substantial capacity for natural regeneration of anthropogenic disturbance footprint.

Canadian Wildlife Biology and Management. 2016. 4-2: 119-136.