A new study by Scott Nielsen, a researcher from the University of Alberta, examines whether conservation of important habitat for grizzly bears can also help achieve broader biodiversity goals. The paper is part of a special issue of the British Columbia Journal of Ecosystems Management. This issue of JEM also contains several articles describing other facets of the recently-completed ecoregional plan for BC’s Central Interior region. The plan, which covers a large portion of the province, is one the most comprehensive conservation planning examples from BC to date, integrating data on vegetation, terrestrial focal species, aquatic biodiversity, and other conservation foci.
The Nielsen study compared the distribution of predicted source and sink habitats for grizzly bears with areas found to be highly “irreplaceable” for achieving protection of other biodiversity features. The author concludes that “protection of grizzly bear source habitats across different bear density classes does provide a reasonable umbrella effect or shortcut for protection of other important conservation features in grizzly bear range.” However, Nielsen cautions that “If the highest density source habitats for grizzly bears were used for targeting future conservation areas, important areas of high biodiversity value for low-elevation plains between the mountain ranges would therefore be overlooked. This is particularly evident for the extirpated grizzly bear habitats in the Fraser Basin, where comparisons with grizzly bear habitats were not assessed yet contained noticeable areas of highly irreplaceable habitat (Loos 2011). This research therefore suggests that if grizzly bears are used as a focal surrogate species for conservation planning, source-like habitats across the range of bear density classes should be considered, as well as the extent of the analysis, to acknowledge that at larger extents the extirpated habitats common to low elevations will be overlooked, and yet are critical to the conservation of threatened biodiversity.”
The journal issue can be downloaded here.