The caribou (Rangifer tarandus) faces many different pressures throughout Québec, making it a vulnerable species. In particular, forest roads, numerous throughout the province, increase caribou mortality. Indeed, forest roads increase predation by the grey wolf (Canis lupus) that uses them to move quickly through the landscape to track its prey. Moreover, forest roads also increase habitat fragmentation; which in turn generates stress, habitat avoidance, and ultimately affect feeding patterns.
The Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec (MFFP), in charge of forest management and fauna protection, is faced with the difficult task of designing forest roads necessary to maintain the viability of the forest industry while reducing their negative impact on the caribou. As part of an internship at the MFFP, I have developed an open-source GIS-based tool capable of exploring different strategies for building forest road networks. The goal of this tool is to prevent the disturbance of areas important to the caribou populations, and to detect existing roads that could be removed in order to improve the situation.
The tool had to respect many criteria: it had to be quick and easy to use, while being flexible enough to explore different user-defined scenarios. Each scenario generates a forest road network that expands across the forest areas to be harvested. In this presentation, I will briefly describe the difficulties faced to solve the very complex problem of optimizing a road network. I will also explain how I simulated the wood flux through the network in order to determine its most important roads.