Energetic implications of disturbance caused by petroleum exploration to woodland caribou

Corey J.A. Bradshaw, Stan A. Boutin, Daryll M. Hebert

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39 Citations (Scopus)


Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Alberta are classified as endangered and apparently have declined. Disturbance from petroleum exploration has been implicated as a possible cause, so we constructed a simple model to estimate the energy costs of multiple encounters with disturbance (i.e., loud noise). Our objective was to estimate if woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta have been exposed to enough disturbance from 1988 to 1993 to cause winter mass loss to exceed either (i) 15% autumn mass or (ii) 20% autumn mass. A single disturbance event costs caribou 3.46-5.81 MJ. Caribou would have to encounter (i) 20-34 (mean = 27) disturbance events to lose >15% mass over winter and (ii) 41-137 (mean = 89) events to lose > 20% mass. There were five occasions from 1988 to 1993 (i.e., in a particular caribou distribution zone and winter) when the encounter rate (number of potential encounters per square kilometre) exceeded a level expected to result in caribou losing more than the estimated mean 15% autumn mass. There were four occasions when the encounter rate exceeded the lower limit expected to cause > 20% mass loss and one occasion when it approached the mean rate expected to cause >20% mass loss. Modelling the cumulative influence of disturbances demonstrates an effect on individual energy loss during winter at certain exploration intensities. It is the first attempt at estimating the consequences of petroleum exploration for wildlife in northeastern Alberta and provides important information for future research and land-use management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1319-1324
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology-Revue Canadienne De Zoologie
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1998
Externally publishedYes


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