For the future of the caribou
The caribou, featured on our 25-cent coin, is in danger. In Québec, there are three ecological species (subspecies) of this northern cervid: the barren-ground caribou (of the tundra), the woodland caribou of the boreal forest, and the mountain caribou of the Gaspésie.
For a number of years, caribou populations have been dwindling to the point where this emblematic species could disappear from some regions. What are the real reasons, and what can we do?
Some experts attribute the decline of forest caribou mainly to forest industry activities. While there are undeniable impacts generated by those activities, other factors are at work: habitat degradation and fragmentation by forest fires and insect epidemics; disturbance caused by resort and ecotourism activities; hunting and poaching; wolf and bear predation; food availability; parasites, diseases and biting or sucking insects; climate change and extreme meteorological events.
As a result, the caribou is affected simultaneously by a combination of factors, making it difficult to evaluate separately the relative effects. The forest industry cannot be solely responsible for the forest caribou’s population decline and are, in fact, only one of many causes. Protecting the caribou requires an integrated program targeting all the factors. One solution: an eco-system-based forest management approach.
This approach advocates forest management which recognizes and encourages the various functions of the forest and takes into account the expectations of all users in view of the unforeseen results of climate change: carbon storage, air and water remediation, prevention of erosion, maintenance of biodiversity, production of woody and non-woody materials, hunting, fishing, resorts and ecotourism.
By valuing the various functions and integrating them into the economic model of forest-related businesses and regional authorities, it would be possible to ensure the resilience and survival of our forests, respond to the sustainable development requirements of the regions and protect the caribou.
Protection of this animal, which has an important role in First Nations culture, provides us with the opportunity to rethink our relationship with nature and the way in which we use natural resources.
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Jacques Prescott113 Posts
Jacques Prescott est biologiste, professeur associé à la Chaire en éco-conseil de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. Spécialiste de la biodiversité et du développement durable, il est l’auteur de nombreux livres et articles sur la faune et la conservation de la nature. Il nous fait l’honneur de rejoindre notre équipe de collaborateurs et signera chaque mois une chronique intitulée Faune et flore. / Jacques Prescott is a biologist, associate professor with the Chair in Eco-Counselling of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. A specialist in biodiversity and sustainable development, he is the author of numerous books and articles about wildlife and nature conservation. He has honoured us by joining our team of contributors and will write a monthly column entitled Wildlife and Habitat.