Data from: Development and validation of an expert-based habitat suitability model to support boreal caribou conservation
Leblond, Mathieu; Dussault, Christian; St-Laurent, Martin-Hugues (2015), Data from: Development and validation of an expert-based habitat suitability model to support boreal caribou conservation, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.424h7
The long-term persistence of boreal caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is threatened by the negative impacts of human activities, including industrial development. The vast geographical distribution and behavioural variability of caribou warranted the development and validation of an appropriate conservation tool for managers in eastern Canada. We developed a habitat suitability model for boreal caribou in Québec by integrating expert knowledge into a hierarchical analysis. We elicited responses from 14 experts on caribou ecology to determine the best spatiotemporal scales of application, the relative importance of habitat variables, the zone of influence of human infrastructure, and the parameterization of the model. Based on this input, we built the model using 8 habitat categories and 3 human infrastructure variables. Experts identified mature conifer-dominated forests and open lichen woodlands as the most important vegetation categories for boreal caribou, whereas density of and proximity to paved roads, forest roads, and mines decreased habitat quality. We mapped the resulting model over the entire province of Québec (up to the northern forest allocation limit), and validated it using independent GPS telemetry datasets acquired in 3 distinct regions. Our model predicted that habitat suitability was highest in the northeastern part of our study area, where timber harvest activities and roads were virtually absent. Conversely, southern parts of Québec were generally unsuitable for boreal caribou. Our habitat suitability model is among the first tools for boreal caribou conservation available to wildlife and land managers in Québec.