Fixing nature’s broken links
Human interference in the environment and the natural order of things has never been as widespread as it is today. As a result, many populations of Canada’s iconic wildlife—caribou, elk, deer, wolves, bears—are declining. Much of this is because people have disrupted the types of interactions that occur between species. What’s more, the links in the food chain are broken.
To counter these impacts, restoration ecology has emerged as one of the most important disciplines in the life sciences. Restoration also forms the backbone of environmental legislation in Canada. However, if restoration is to succeed, scientists must develop and translate new knowledge about how people affect species interactions.
Adam T. Ford, Canada Research Chair in Restoration Ecology, is examining the impact of human activity on the interactions among large predators (wolves, bears, cougars), their prey (deer, elk) and plants in human-modified landscapes. Ford’s research will use a combination of field experiments, GPS tracking, computer models and satellite images to bring together the ecology of individuals, populations and communities.
Specifically, Ford is investigating how forestry practices, urban growth and the existence of highways not only change species abundance, but also the manner in which these species move through the landscape and interact with one another.
Ford’s work will also test the success of new management techniques aimed at stabilizing wildlife populations. The goal is to ensure the recovery of wildlife populations, and to inform management strategies and policy that is focused on protecting and restoring Canada’s landscapes.