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Extensive forest management contributes to maintain suitable habitat characteristics for the endangered Atlantic-Gaspésie caribou

Nadeau Fortin, Marie-Audrey, Sirois, Luc, St-Laurent, Martin-Hugues
Canadian journal of forest research = 2016 v.46 no.7 pp. 933-942
Alces alces, Canis latrans, Rangifer tarandus, Ursidae, biomass, browsing, coniferous forests, correspondence analysis, endangered species, forest management, forest stands, habitats, lichens, predators, small fruits
Extensive forest management aims at minimizing differences between managed and natural forests and at contributing to the conservation of endangered species such as the Atlantic-Gaspésie caribou. The decline of this isolated population was exacerbated by intensive forest practices, as the over-representation of regenerating forests supports high densities of bears and coyotes. These predators select such stands for the high availability of berries and browse suitable to alternative prey, especially moose. Our objective was to verify whether extensive treatments can provide suitable habitat characteristics for caribou. We compared the impacts of different intensive and extensive treatments on habitat attributes known to be selected by caribou, moose, and their predators. We sampled 291 sites in seven treatments and in mature coniferous forests (as the control). A partial canonical correspondence analysis highlighted which treatments maintain habitat attributes that are comparable with those found in mature forests, including some characteristics suitable for caribou such as a substantial biomass of arboreal lichen and a lower availability of resources for predators. Although being more suitable than the three intensive treatments tested, none of the four extensive treatments we studied provided similar habitat conditions to mature forest. Favouring extensive treatments could nevertheless be a relevant conservation compromise at the forest stand level, but their utility remains uncertain under the maximum sustainable yield paradigm as they impact a larger area.