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Computer models expose humans as main cause of caribou decline

liminated from the area in 37 years.

"Based on the simulation experiments, we suggest the most detrimental factor on caribou population dynamics is the functional loss of habitat due to avoidance of good quality habitat in proximity of industrial infrastructures," said Weclaw, lead author of the study, which will be published this month in Ecological Modelling.

A previous study conducted through the Boreal Caribou Committee, a group of U of A researchers dedicated to studying caribou, showed caribou will generally stay about 200 metres clear of any human industrial developments, including roads and seismic lines.

Weclaw added that some measures are being taken to reduce the impact humans are having on Alberta's northern boreal land. For one, he said, seismic lines, which oil and gas exploration companies make to produce a model of subsurface geological structures, are being made narrower than they used to be and are no longer cut in straight lines. The lines are also reseeded shortly after being cut. Research is being conducted to see if these measures lessen the impact on the caribou.

However, whether these measures prove effective or not, Weclaw believes that even more needs to be done to ensure the continued survival of the caribou in northern Alberta.

"We need to get all interested parties together to work on solutions to protect the caribou. Our research suggests that if things continue as they are now, soon we won't have anymore caribou to protect," he said.


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Contact: Ryan Smith
ryan.smith@ualberta.ca
780-492-0436
University of Alberta
1-Sep-2004


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