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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Computer simulation of Rangifer energetics Russell, Donald Edmund


With increasing demands on and development of northern mineral resources, a basic understanding of the wildlife productivity is required for the careful management of any species. Barren-ground caribou, Rangifer tarandus (Richarson) , has been an integral part of these northern regions and the culture of the natives for centuries. With the use of simulation modeling much of the diverse data concerning caribou was integrated and evaluated into two model structures. Model BIOEN examined the winter bioenergetics of caribou while model ACTIVE examined the role of biting insects in the summer energetics of caribou. During the construction of these models much data collected on ungulates other than caribou were incorporated when comparative data for caribou were available. Model BIOEN proposes a critical environment for a 100 Kg male caribou under two nutritional regimes. Simulated effects of snow cover on energy balance appear important and deserve more research attention. Two areas, one in the tundra and one in the boreal region, were examined in terms of wintering potential for caribou. In the years simulated, the boreal region proved more favourable in terms of weight loss to the animal. However, it was revealed through sensitivity analyses that small errors in the measurement of digestibility, gross energy content of the forage, food intake rate or grazing intensity have a significant effect on weight projections during the winter. Model ACTIVE incorporated data from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to examine the role of insects in the summer energy budgets of caribou. Results indicated that insects caused a significant increase in heat production (51.8 Kcal/Kg /day). A predictive regression equation is presented relating total heat production (kcal/Kg/day) to the number of hours of moderate and no insect harassment per day for an adult male or non-lactating female.

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