Background Several migratory ungulates, including caribou, are dramatically declining. Caribou of the Barren-ground ecotype, which forms its own subspecies, are known to be mainly migratory. By contrast, within the Woodland subspecies, animals of the Boreal ecotype are known to be mainly sedentary, while those within the Northern and Central Mountain ecotypes to be partially migratory, with only some individuals migrating. Promotion of conservation actions (e.g., habitat protection) that are specific to both residents and migrants, as well as to the areas they frequent seasonally (which may be separate for migrants), requires distinguishing migration from other movement behaviours, which might be a challenge. Methods We aimed at assessing seasonal movement behaviours, including migratory, resident, dispersing, and nomadic, for caribou belonging to the Barren-ground and Woodland subspecies and ecotypes. We examined seasonal displacement, both planar and altitudinal, and seasonal ranges overlap for 366 individuals that were GPS-collared in Northern and Western Canada. Lastly, we assessed the ability of caribou individuals to switch between migratory and non-migratory movement behaviours between years. Results We detected migratory behaviour within each of the studied subspecies and ecotypes. However, seasonal ranges overlap (an index of sedentary behaviour) varied, with proportions of clear migrants (0 overlap) of 40.94% for Barren-ground caribou and 23.34% for Woodland caribou, and of 32.95%, 54.87%, and 8.86% for its Northern Mountain, Central Mountain, and Boreal ecotype, respectively. Plastic switches of individuals were also detected between migratory, resident, dispersing, and nomadic seasonal movements performed across years. Conclusions Our unexpected findings of marked seasonal movement plasticity in caribou indicate that this phenomenon should be better studied to understand the resilience of this endangered species to habitat and climatic changes. Our results that a substantial proportion of individuals engaged in seasonal migration in all studied ecotypes indicate that caribou conservation plans should account for critical habitat in both summer and winter ranges. Accordingly, conservation strategies are being devised for the Woodland subspecies and its ecotypes, which were found to be at least partially migratory in this study. Our findings that migration is detectable with both planar and altitudinal analyses of seasonal displacement provide a tool to better define seasonal ranges, also in mountainous and hilly environments, and protect habitat there.

Seasonal movements in caribou ecotypes of Western Canada / Theoret J.; Cavedon M.; Hegel T.; Hervieux D.; Schwantje H.; Steenweg R.; Watters M.; Musiani M.. - In: MOVEMENT ECOLOGY. - ISSN 2051-3933. - ELETTRONICO. - 10:1(2022), pp. 12.1-12.14. [10.1186/s40462-022-00312-x]

Seasonal movements in caribou ecotypes of Western Canada

Musiani M.
2022

Abstract

Background Several migratory ungulates, including caribou, are dramatically declining. Caribou of the Barren-ground ecotype, which forms its own subspecies, are known to be mainly migratory. By contrast, within the Woodland subspecies, animals of the Boreal ecotype are known to be mainly sedentary, while those within the Northern and Central Mountain ecotypes to be partially migratory, with only some individuals migrating. Promotion of conservation actions (e.g., habitat protection) that are specific to both residents and migrants, as well as to the areas they frequent seasonally (which may be separate for migrants), requires distinguishing migration from other movement behaviours, which might be a challenge. Methods We aimed at assessing seasonal movement behaviours, including migratory, resident, dispersing, and nomadic, for caribou belonging to the Barren-ground and Woodland subspecies and ecotypes. We examined seasonal displacement, both planar and altitudinal, and seasonal ranges overlap for 366 individuals that were GPS-collared in Northern and Western Canada. Lastly, we assessed the ability of caribou individuals to switch between migratory and non-migratory movement behaviours between years. Results We detected migratory behaviour within each of the studied subspecies and ecotypes. However, seasonal ranges overlap (an index of sedentary behaviour) varied, with proportions of clear migrants (0 overlap) of 40.94% for Barren-ground caribou and 23.34% for Woodland caribou, and of 32.95%, 54.87%, and 8.86% for its Northern Mountain, Central Mountain, and Boreal ecotype, respectively. Plastic switches of individuals were also detected between migratory, resident, dispersing, and nomadic seasonal movements performed across years. Conclusions Our unexpected findings of marked seasonal movement plasticity in caribou indicate that this phenomenon should be better studied to understand the resilience of this endangered species to habitat and climatic changes. Our results that a substantial proportion of individuals engaged in seasonal migration in all studied ecotypes indicate that caribou conservation plans should account for critical habitat in both summer and winter ranges. Accordingly, conservation strategies are being devised for the Woodland subspecies and its ecotypes, which were found to be at least partially migratory in this study. Our findings that migration is detectable with both planar and altitudinal analyses of seasonal displacement provide a tool to better define seasonal ranges, also in mountainous and hilly environments, and protect habitat there.
2022
Seasonal movements in caribou ecotypes of Western Canada / Theoret J.; Cavedon M.; Hegel T.; Hervieux D.; Schwantje H.; Steenweg R.; Watters M.; Musiani M.. - In: MOVEMENT ECOLOGY. - ISSN 2051-3933. - ELETTRONICO. - 10:1(2022), pp. 12.1-12.14. [10.1186/s40462-022-00312-x]
Theoret J.; Cavedon M.; Hegel T.; Hervieux D.; Schwantje H.; Steenweg R.; Watters M.; Musiani M.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/902924
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