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1.     FLAGSHIP SPECIES – Yes, caribou are a
good flagship species for the boreal forest.

For a species to be an effective
flagship, it must have the ability to raise public awareness and sympathy (), thereby
raising support for conservation efforts in its habitat. Flagship
species arouse public interest and therefore awareness through their charismatic
appeal or perceived importance. Although caribou are
not a very charismatic species, they still have enormous cultural influence and
significance which allows them to appeal to the public (). In
Norway, caribou are
associated with local history and culture, allowing them to function as flagship
species for local mountain areas (). Even in Canada, caribou are perceived
as icons of wilderness and nature (), they hold great significance in Canada’s
indigenous cultures ().  Therefore, because
of their cultural appeal, caribou are able to raise public
awareness for boreal forest conservation.

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Flagship species must also
have the ability to arouse public sympathy and support. Caribou are a threatened
species and only 30% of Canada’s caribou population is self-sustaining (). This
helps arouse public sympathy, especially considering that a large portion the
caribou habitat was destroyed by human interference and oil corporations.

A final
important consideration is that caribou are the only large vertebrate in some
forestry that needs conservation (belt etc. especially pristine boreal areas
with no human interference). Caribou are able to help raise conservation funds
for these areas and therefore, act as good flagship species.

 

2.     UMBRELLA SPECIES – Yes, caribou are a
good umbrella species.

For a species to be an effective umbrella, it
must be able to impact and conserve other species over a large habitat range. Caribou have a good
home range of 4000 km2
which exceeds home range sizes of most other boreal species (), which
allows them to protect a larger area. A study performed in Quebec, Canada concluded
that boreal caribou can act as an effective
umbrella for boreal fauna (). It was found that single-species
management of caribou populations can effectively preserve other communities at
the insect, bird, and small mammal level (). The study shows that the probability
of caribou population sustainability is positively correlated to the regional
species assemblages. Probabilities of 80%, 60%, and 40% for caribou populations
sustainability resulted in regional species assemblage Jaccard similarity indices
of 0.86, 0.79, and 0.74, respectively (). This shows that caribou management
and conservation will act to conserve other species in the boreal forest.

 

3.     INDICATOR SPECIES – caribou may be good
or bad indicator species depending on what they indicate.

For a species to be an effective indicator, it
must be able to provide information on an ecosystem’s health. However,
there is no consensus on what an indicator species should indicate to determine
ecosystem health (). In terms of climate change, a study comparing the
indicatory ability of different species revealed that caribou have very low
sensitivity (rating of 1/3) and average specificity (rating of 2/3) to climate
change (). High sensitivity and specificity are vital characteristics for indicator
species to have, so using this study it may be concluded that caribou are bad
indicator species. However, caribou are very sensitive to human disturbance and
habitat fragmentation (). In this way, caribou are very effective indicators of
human activity. Therefore, caribou are bad climate change indicators relative
to other indicator species but they are very good at indicating human activity
and disturbance in their habitat.

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