Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (1.3 MB)

Title: Winter habitat selection by caribou in relation to lichen abundance, wildfires, grazing, and landscape characteristics in northwest Alaska

Author: Joly, Kyle; Chapin, F. Stuart III; Klein, David R.;

Date: 2010

Source: Ecoscience. 17(3): 321-333

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Lichens are an important winter forage for large, migratory herds of caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) that can influence population dynamics through effects on body condition and in turn calf recruitment and survival. We investigated the vegetative and physiographic characteristics of winter range of the Western Arctic Herd in northwest Alaska, one of the largest caribou herds in North America. We made three broad comparisons: habitats used by caribou versus random locations, burned versus unburned habitats, and habitats within the current winter range versus those in the historic winter range and potential winter ranges. We found that lichen abundance was more than three times greater at locations used by caribou than found at random. The current winter range does not appear to be overgrazed as a whole, but continued high grazing pressure and consequences of climate change on plant community structure might degrade its condition. Within the current winter range, lichen abundance was more than four times greater at unburned locations than at recently burned locations. Other than lichen abundance, there were few vegetative differences between burned and unburned locations. The historic winter range has low lichen abundance, likely due to sustained grazing pressure exerted by the herd, which suggests that range deterioration can lead to range shifts. Recovery of this range may be slowed by continued grazing and trampling during migration of caribou to and from their current winter range, as well as by high wildfire frequency and other consequences of climate change. The area identified as potential winter range is unlikely to be utilized regularly by large numbers of caribou primarily due to low lichen abundance associated with extensive deciduous stands, large areas of riparian habitat, high moose (Alces alces) densities, and greater prevalence of wildfire. Our results suggest that lichens are important in the overwintering ecology of caribou that face the energetic costs of predator avoidance and migration.

Keywords: caribou, fire, grazing, lichens, range expansion, Western Arctic Herd

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Joly, Kyle ; Chapin, F. Stuart III; Klein, David R. 2010. Winter habitat selection by caribou in relation to lichen abundance, wildfires, grazing, and landscape characteristics in northwest Alaska. Ecoscience. 17(3): 321-333.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.