Resource separation analysis with moose indicates threats to caribou in human altered landscapes

Wibke Peters, Mark Hebblewhite, Nicholas Decesare, Francesca Cagnacci, Marco Musiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Species recovery is often impeded by inadequate knowledge on mechanisms of community interactions that cause and exacerbate species endangerment. Caribou and wild reindeer Rangifer tarandus are declining in many regions of their circumpolar range likely because of human-induced landscape changes. In general, their niche specialization enables Rangifer to survive in nutrient-poor habitats spatially separated from other ungulates and their shared predators. Research has indicated that shifts in primary prey distribution following human landscape alteration may result in spatial overlap with Rangifer. We studied overlap relationships of woodland caribou R. t. caribou and moose Alces alces, quantified by their differential use of environmental resources, and evaluated the role of human landscape alteration in spatial separation in south-western Canada. Anthropogenic conversion of old-growth forests to early seral stands is hypothesized to decrease the spatial separation between caribou and moose, the dominant prey for wolves Canis lupus, contributing to increased caribou mortality. Redundancy analysis (RDA) was first used to examine coarse scale resource separation across our study area. Second, at a finer spatial scale, we used logistic regression to compare resource- and spatial separation of sympatric pairs of 17 moose and 17 caribou. Finally, we tested if the frequency of predator-caused caribou mortalities was higher in regions with higher moose resource use. Although environmental resource separation was strong at the coarser scale, we observed substantial spatial overlap (>50%) at the finer scale. In summer we reported a significant positive relationship between spatial overlap of moose and caribou and the degree of human landscape alteration. Most importantly, locations of caribou mortalities corresponded with areas of high resource use by moose in summer. Thus, consistent with the spatial separation hypothesis, our research suggests that early successional forest stages may decrease spatial separation between caribou and moose, resulting in increased mortality risk for threatened caribou.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-498
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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