Chapter 6 – Animal Movement Restoration Protocol

Principal Investigators: Michael Gillingham, Roy Rea, Jeanne Robert, Chris Johnson


The Restoration Protocol was designed to identify ways to improve the restoration of the pipeline RoW and work areas to increase animal movement along and across the RoW and to decrease the movement of invasive or edge-dependent vertebrate species (e.g., the brown-headed cowbird; Molothrus ater) along the RoW and construction working area. Much of the originally proposed protocol focused on post-construction restoration and monitoring — aspects that could not be implemented given the early suspension of the BMAP. Instead, this Chapter focuses on the analysis of novel methods for baseline mammal biodiversity assessment, the development of DNA-based sampling methods for moose (and other large herbivores) fecal pellets, and the planning for the development of large animal exclosures designed to test restoration effectiveness within the pipeline RoW after construction — all of which could be completed prior to FID.

The edge habitat created by the construction of a RoW can attract large herbivores such as moose (Alces alces) (Child 1998), which select the juxtaposition of forest cover and early seral forage in the RoW, as well as birds or other mammals specialized on nesting or foraging in edge or open habitat (e.g., sparrows or microtine voles; Steventon et al. 1998). At the same time, a pipeline RoW across a variety of EUs has the potential to increase the distribution of invasive plant and animal species (both native and alien) during the reclamation period and simultaneously reduce the connectivity of habitats bisected by the corridor (Laurance et al. 2009). The movement of the species in response to habitat disturbance can influence the implementation and success of vegetation restoration.

One means of decreasing movement of invasive species and increasing connectivity among habitats bisected by the RoW is to effectively narrow the width of the corridor, or to create periodic narrowings consisting of vegetation with vertical structure that could act as structural ‘”bridges” (Jones et al. 2011). Ground cover and other horizontal ground structure within these bridges can be critical for use by small mammals (e.g., Yahner 1986) and meso-carnivores (e.g., Payer and Harrison 2003). Restoring structural components consistent with natural forest conditions — through post-construction revegetation with tree and shrub cover in addition to grasses — increases the gap-crossing ability of many bird and mammal species sensitive to disturbance or reductions in habitat connectivity (reviewed in Otter et al. 2007). Additionally, creating a transitional habitat, rather than leaving an abrupt edge, facilitates can even create ancillary nesting and foraging habitat. This added structure would also decrease the amount of edge habitat that is attractive to nest parasites, invasive weedy plant species or large herbivores that may impede restoration activities. Such mitigation strategies might make the habitat amenable to retaining species present prior to construction, facilitate movement across the pipeline RoW, and simultaneously make the RoW less suitable for the establishment of invasive species.

Linear RoWs have a range of effects on the mobility of animals. Previous work has shown that in the absence of structural components such as coarse woody debris or shrubs and trees, linear features such as roads (McGregor et al. 2008) and ski-runs (Negro et al. 2013) often act as semi-permeable barriers to the dispersal of small forest-dwelling mammal species. The initial corridor Protocol was designed to assess animal movement and to determine how different forms of mitigation could increase the degree of connectivity across the linear corridor. One proposed method was to use noninvasive sampling of hair for DNA extraction using sticky tape hair snares, followed by species and individual identification. Such data would allow us to determine if the proposed treatments on the RoW enhance perpendicular movement and serve as habitat for forest dependent species.

For other species, RoWs represent increased opportunities for movement and foraging. Increased use of the RoW can occur with some predators (e.g., wolves [Canis lupus] and coyotes [Canis latrans]) either in search of prey or simply moving across the landscape (Latham et al. 2011). Also, many ungulate species (e.g., deer [Odocoileus spp.] and moose) may use the RoW — taking advantage of early seral plants associated with the forest ecotone resulting from land clearing and vegetation management (Rea 2003). An increased presence of large herbivores can also have significant negative impacts on the success of vegetation restoration. In the original Protocol, we proposed to use motion-sensing cameras, standard fixed-plot pellet transects and browse surveys, and DNA from fecal pellets (ungulates only) to assess movement and density of large mammals along the RoW. In addition, fenced exclosures were to be built to monitor the impacts of herbivorous vertebrate species (from hares to moose) on forest regeneration and vegetation complexes — similar exclosures have been used successfully in places such as Isle Royale, Michigan, U.S.A. (Risenhoover and Maass 1987) and Terra Nova Park, Newfoundland (McLaren et al. 2004). Such exclosures can be designed to restrict small, medium-sized and larger herbivores, thus enabling researchers to evaluate the impact of each species, or groups of species, on forest composition and regeneration. Interactions between vegetation removal due to herbivores and vegetation maintenance activities could likewise be monitored using exclosures.