Scientific Assessment to Inform the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population, in Canada - 2011 Update: Key Findings

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The information and analyses presented in this report address limitations identified with implementation of the work presented in the 2008 Scientific Review. However, neither the approach nor the results of this assessment represent a fundamental shift from the 2008 Science Review conclusion that range is the appropriate geographic delineation for critical habitat description. Further, the amount of total disturbance within a range remains the primary criteria for identifying critical habitat to meet a goal of self-sustaining local populations of caribou.

While improved data would enhance our understanding and address outstanding
uncertainties, this report concludes that sufficient information exists to support a
scientifically-grounded assessment of critical habitat for populations of boreal caribou
across Canada, and provides a scientific basis to inform critical habitat identifcation for
each of the 57 identified ranges that comprise the full extent of occurrence of boreal caribou in Canada.

Highlights of the application of the conceptual framework and associated analyses supporting this 2011 assessment include:

Executive Summary Figure 1. Integrated risk assessment for boreal caribou ranges in Canada.

Executive summary Figure 1 & Figure 14. Map of the 57 boreal caribou ranges in Canada. Each range is categorized as either very unlikely, unlikely, as likely as not, likely or very likely of maintaining a self-sustaining population.

Executive Summary Figure 2. The disturbance-based population growth function used in conjunction with range-specific information to derive range-specific management thresholds once an acceptable level of risk by managers has been specified.

Executive summary Figure 2 & Figure 11. Graph showing the decrease in probability of achieving stable or increasing population growth as a function of increasing disturbance. The latter is used to categorize the likelihood of achieving the recovery goal of a self-sustaining population or, conversely, the risk of not achieving the recovery goal to help inform management. For example, the probability of achieving stable or increasing population growth is high when disturbance levels are low. It is very likely that the goal of a self-sustaining population will be achieved. Thus, there is a low risk associated with not meeting the recovery goal. At higher levels of disturbance, the probability of stable or increasing population growth is low and it becomes very unlikely that the goal of a self-sustaining population will be achieved. The latter corresponds to a very high risk of not meeting the recovery goal and suggests that habitat restoration may be needed.

In addition to these highlights, several important observations related to the availability of information emerged, and recommendations related to these are advanced.

In conclusion, the breadth of information and knowledge compiled for this assessment exemplifies the comprehensive nature of, and interrelationships between, types of evidence available to provide a scientifically-based description of critical habitat for informing recovery planning for boreal caribou. Significant advances were made to the conceptual and methodological design during this assessment to address some key uncertainties or limitations identified in the 2008 Scientific Review. These advances improved the robustness of the results with respect to providing a scientific description of critical habitat for boreal caribou across Canada.

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