Foothills Research Institute

Hinton, Canada

Foothills Research Institute

Hinton, Canada
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Bourbonnais M.L.,University of Victoria | Nelson T.A.,University of Victoria | Cattet M.R.L.,University of Saskatchewan | Darimont C.T.,University of Victoria | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Non-invasive measures for assessing long-term stress in free ranging mammals are an increasingly important approach for understanding physiological responses to landscape conditions. Using a spatially and temporally expansive dataset of hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) generated from a threatened grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) population in Alberta, Canada, we quantified how variables representing habitat conditions and anthropogenic disturbance impact long-term stress in grizzly bears. We characterized spatial variability in male and female HCC point data using kernel density estimation and quantified variable influence on spatial patterns of male and female HCC stress surfaces using random forests. Separate models were developed for regions inside and outside of parks and protected areas to account for substantial differences in anthropogenic activity and disturbance within the study area. Variance explained in the random forest models ranged from 55.34% to 74.96% for males and 58.15% to 68.46% for females. Predicted HCC levels were higher for females compared to males. Generally, high spatially continuous female HCC levels were associated with parks and protected areas while low-to-moderate levels were associated with increased anthropogenic disturbance. In contrast, male HCC levels were low in parks and protected areas and low-to-moderate in areas with increased anthropogenic disturbance. Spatial variability in gender-specific HCC levels reveal that the type and intensity of external stressors are not uniform across the landscape and that male and female grizzly bears may be exposed to, or perceive, potential stressors differently. We suggest observed spatial patterns of long-term stress may be the result of the availability and distribution of foods related to disturbance features, potential sexual segregation in available habitat selection, and may not be influenced by sources of mortality which represent acute traumas. In this wildlife system and others, conservation and management efforts can benefit by understanding spatial- and gender-based stress responses to landscape conditions. Copyright: © 2013 Bourbonnais et al.

Wang M.,Foothills Research Institute | Wang M.,University of Georgia | Stewart J.D.,Natural Resources Canada
Annals of Forest Science | Year: 2012

Context The transition of microfibril angle (MFA) values from juvenile to mature wood marks the change from variable, low-quality wood to stronger and more consistent wood that can produce higher value products. & Aims We evaluate the utility of different statistical models that predict how much of a log is higher quality mature wood based on MFA. & Methods MFA was measured from pith to bark at breast height in six lodgepole pine stands in western Canada. Six different forms of two-segment regression models were assessed to determine the point of transition (TP) in MFA from juvenile to mature wood. & Results All six models provided useful and significant TP estimates. In the first segment (juvenile phase), the quadratic form produced the most conservative TPs, the linear form the least conservative, and the exponential form was intermediate. A linear second segment (mature phase) was only a minor improvement over a constant. There were significant differences in MFA TP among some sites. Analyses of the relationships between TP and tree variables, e.g., DBH, height, were inconclusive. & Conclusions Any of the six two-segment models can be used objectively to estimate MFA transition points; the choice of model will allow mill managers to manage risk in product out-turn. © INRA / Springer-Verlag France 2012.

Wang M.,Foothills Research Institute | Stewart J.D.,Natural Resources Canada
Western Journal of Applied Forestry | Year: 2013

The transition of modulus of elasticity (MOE) values from juvenile to mature wood marks the change between variable, low-quality wood to wood that is stronger and more consistent. Knowing the proportion of mature wood in a log can lower processing costs and allow for higher-quality products. We measured MOE in breast height pith-to-bark samples from lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) trees in six sites in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. We assessed eight different two-segment regression models (a first linear, quadratic, exponential or power segment, and a second linear or constant segment) to determine the transition point from juvenile to mature wood based on MOE. All eight models provided useful and significant estimates of the transition point. For the first segment (juvenile phase), the quadratic form predicted the latest transition to mature wood, the exponential form predicted the earliest transition, and the linear and power forms were intermediate. Use of a linear form for the second segment (mature phase) provided only a minor improvement over use of a constant. There were significant differences in transition point based on MOE among some of the sites, and correlations between transition points and tree diameter or height were found at two of the six sites. © 2013 Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada, Canadian Forest Service and The Society of American Foresters.

Boulanger J.,Integrated Ecological Research | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute | Margalida A.,University of Lleida
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

One of the principal factors that have reduced grizzly bear populations has been the creation of human access into grizzly bear habitat by roads built for resource extraction. Past studies have documented mortality and distributional changes of bears relative to roads but none have attempted to estimate the direct demographic impact of roads in terms of both survival rates, reproductive rates, and the interaction of reproductive state of female bears with survival rate. We applied a combination of survival and reproductive models to estimate demographic parameters for threatened grizzly bear populations in Alberta. Instead of attempting to estimate mean trend we explored factors which caused biological and spatial variation in population trend. We found that sex and age class survival was related to road density with subadult bears being most vulnerable to road-based mortality. A multi-state reproduction model found that females accompanied by cubs of the year and/or yearling cubs had lower survival rates compared to females with two year olds or no cubs. A demographic model found strong spatial gradients in population trend based upon road density. Threshold road densities needed to ensure population stability were estimated to further refine targets for population recovery of grizzly bears in Alberta. Models that considered lowered survival of females with dependant offspring resulted in lower road density thresholds to ensure stable bear populations. Our results demonstrate likely spatial variation in population trend and provide an example how demographic analysis can be used to refine and direct conservation measures for threatened species. © 2014 Boulanger, Stenhouse.

Northrup J.M.,University of Alberta | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute | Boyce M.S.,University of Alberta
Animal Conservation | Year: 2012

Human-carnivore conflicts on agricultural lands are a global conservation issue affecting carnivore population viability, and human safety and livelihoods. Locations of conflicts are influenced by both human presence and carnivore habitat selection, although these two aspects of conflict rarely have been examined concurrently. Advances in animal tracking have facilitated examination of carnivore habitat selection and movements affording new opportunities to understand spatial patterns of conflict. We reviewed 10 years of data on conflicts between grizzly bears and humans in southwestern Alberta, Canada. We used logistic regression models in a geographic information system to map the probability of bear-human conflict from these data, and the relative probability of grizzly bear habitat selection based on global positioning system radiotelemetry data. We overlaid these maps to identify ecological traps, as well as areas of secure habitat. The majority of the landscape was seldom selected by bears, followed by ecological traps where most conflicts occurred. Only a small portion of the landscape was identified as secure habitat. Such mapping methods can be used to identify areas where conflict reduction strategies have the greatest potential to be effective. Our results highlight the need for comprehensive management to reduce conflicts and to identify areas where those conflicts are most problematic. These methods will be particularly useful for carnivores known to be in conflict with agriculture, such as large carnivores that prey on livestock, or pose a threat to human safety. © 2012 The Zoological Society of London.

Mahat V.,University of Alberta | Anderson A.,University of Alberta | Anderson A.,Foothills Research Institute
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | Year: 2013

Rivers in Southern Alberta are vulnerable to climate change because much of the river water originates as snow in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Changes in likelihood of forest disturbance (wildfire, insects, logging, etc.) may also have impacts that are compounded by climate change. This study evaluates the impacts of climate and forest changes on streamflow in the upper parts of the Oldman River in Southern Alberta using a conceptual hydrological model, HBV-EC (Hydrologiska Byräns attenbalansavdelning, Environment Canada), in combination with a stochastic weather generator (LARS-WG) driven by GCM (global climate model) output climate data. Three climate change scenarios (A1B, A2 and B1) are selected to cover the range of possible future climate conditions (2020s, 2050s, and 2080s). The GCM projected less than a 10% increase in precipitation in winter and a similar amount of precipitation decrease in summer. These changes in projected precipitation resulted in up to a 200% (9.3 mm) increase in winter streamflow in February and up to a 63% (31.2 mm) decrease in summer flow in June. Flow also decreased in July and August, when irrigation is important; these reduced river flows during this season could impact agriculture production. The amplification in the streamflow is mostly driven by the projected increase in temperature that is predicted to melt winter snow earlier, resulting in lower water availability during the summer. Uncertainty analysis was completed using a guided GLUE (generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation) approach to obtain the best 100 parameter sets and associated ranges of streamflows. The impacts of uncertainty in streamflows were higher in spring and summer than in winter and fall. Forest change compounded the climate change impact by increasing the winter flow; however, it did not reduce the summer flow. © 2013 Author(s).

Cristescu B.,University of Alberta | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute | Boyce M.S.,University of Alberta
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

On human-used landscapes, animal behavior is a trade-off between maximizing fitness and minimizing human-derived risk. Understanding risk perception in wildlife can allow mitigation of anthropogenic risk, with benefits to long-term animal fitness. Areas where animals choose to rest should minimize risk from predators, which for large carnivores typically equate to humans. We hypothesize that high human activity leads to selection for habitat security, whereas low activity enables trading security for forage. We investigated selection of resting (bedding) sites by GPS radiocollared adult grizzly bears (n = 10) in a low density population on a multiple-use landscape in Canada. We compared security and foods at resting and random locations while accounting for land use, season, and time of day. On reclaimed mines with low human access, bears selected high horizontal cover far from trails, but did not avoid open (herbaceous) areas, resting primarily at night. In protected areas bears also bedded at night, in areas with berry shrubs and Hedysarum spp., with horizontal cover selected in the summer, during high human access. On public lands with substantial human recreation, bears bedded at day, selected resting sites with high horizontal cover in the summer and habitat edges, with bedding associated with herbaceous foods. These spatial and temporal patterns of selection suggest that bears perceive human-related risk differentially in relation to human activity level, season and time of day, and employ a security-food trade-off strategy. Although grizzly bears are presently not hunted in Alberta, their perceived risks associated with humans influence resting-site selection. © 2013 Cristescu et al.

Roever C.L.,University of Alberta | Boyce M.S.,University of Alberta | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute
Ecography | Year: 2010

Access management is among the most important conservation actions for grizzly bears in North America. In Alberta, Canada, nearly all grizzly bear mortalities are caused by humans and occur near roads and trails. Consequently, understanding how bears move relative to roads is of crucial importance for grizzly bear conservation. We present the first application of step-selection functions to model habitat selection and movement of grizzly bears. We then relate this to a step-length analysis to model the rate of movement through various habitats. Grizzly bears of all sex and age groups were more likely to select steps closer to roads irrespective of traffic volume. Roads are associated with habitats attractive to bears such as forestry cutblocks, and models substituting cutblocks for roads outperformed road models in predicting bear selection during day, dawn, and dusk time periods. Bear step lengths increased near roads and were longest near highly trafficked roads indicating faster movement when near roads. Bear selection of roads was consistent throughout the day; however, time of day had a strong influence over selection of forest structure and terrain variables. At night and dawn, bears selected forests of intermediate age between 40 and 100 yr, and bears selected older forests during the day. At dawn, bears selected steps with higher solar radiation values, whereas, at dusk, bears chose steps that were significantly closer to edges. Because grizzly bears use areas near roads during spring and most human-caused mortalities occur near roads, access management is required to reduce conflicts between humans and bears. Our results support new conservation guidelines in western North America that encourage the restriction of human access to roads constructed for resource extraction. © 2010 The Authors.

Nielsen S.E.,University of Alberta | McDermid G.,University of Calgary | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute | Boyce M.S.,University of Alberta
Biological Conservation | Year: 2010

Most current wildlife habitat models, such as resource selection functions, typically assume a static environment, extrapolate poorly in space and time, and often lack linkages to population processes. We submit that more mechanistic habitat models that directly consider bottom-up resources affecting growth and reproduction (i.e., food) and top-down limitations affecting survival are needed to effectively predict habitat quality, especially in the presence of rapid environmental change. Here we present a general model for estimating potential habitat quality (relating to growth and reproduction) and realised habitat quality (accounting for survival) using basic knowledge of the species' seasonal diet, predicted locations of food resource patches and regional patterns in mortality risk. We illustrate our model for a threatened population of grizzly bears in west-central Alberta. Bi-monthly potential habitat quality successfully predicted habitat selection by radio-collared grizzly bears, while multi-seasonal realised habitat quality predicted patterns in occupancy-abundance as measured from unique bears at hair-snag sites. Bottom-up resources therefore predicted patterns of habitat selection, while top-down processes (survival) were necessary to scale-up to population measures. We suggest that more direct measures of resources and environments that affect growth, reproduction and survival, as well as match the temporal scale of animal behaviour, be considered when developing wildlife habitat models. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Coogan S.C.P.,University of Alberta | Raubenheimer D.,University of Sydney | Stenhouse G.B.,Foothills Research Institute | Nielsen S.E.,University of Alberta
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Nutrient balance is a strong determinant of animal fitness and demography. It is therefore important to understand how the compositions of available foods relate to required balance of nutrients and habitat suitability for animals in the wild. These relationships are, however, complex, particularly for omnivores that often need to compose balanced diets by combining their intake from diverse nutritionally complementary foods. Here we apply geometric models to understand how the nutritional compositions of foods available to an omnivorous member of the order Carnivora, the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos L.), relate to optimal macronutrient intake, and assess the seasonal nutritional constraints on the study population in west-central Alberta, Canada. The models examined the proportion of macronutrients that bears could consume by mixing their diet from food available in each season, and assessed the extent to which bears could consume the ratio of protein to non-protein energy previously demonstrated using captive bears to optimize mass gain. We found that non-selective feeding on ungulate carcasses provided a non-optimal macronutrient balance with surplus protein relative to fat and carbohydrate, reflecting adaptation to an omnivorous lifestyle, and that optimization through feeding selectively on different tissues of ungulate carcasses is unlikely. Bears were, however, able to dilute protein intake to an optimal ratio by mixing their otherwise high-protein diet with carbohydrate-rich fruit. Some individual food items were close to optimally balanced in protein to non-protein energy (e.g. Hedysarum alpinum roots), which may help explain their dietary prevalence. Ants may be consumed particularly as a source of lipids. Overall, our analysis showed that most food available to bears in the study area were high in protein relative to lipid or carbohydrate, suggesting the lack of non-protein energy limits the fitness (e.g. body size and reproduction) and population density of grizzly bears in this ecosystem. © 2014 Coogan et al.

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