Drivers of distribution dynamics of free-ranging plains bison

Abstract

Three hundred years ago several millions of bison roamed North America. Bison was a keystone species that occupied a central place in aboriginal culture. In the late 19th century, the species was nearly driven to extinction by over hunting. Following major conservation efforts, there currently are more than half a million of bison in North America, but most populations are captive and semi-captive herds. In fact, there are approximately 1000 free-ranging plains bison in Canada, and only one population within its historical range. Using examples of research that we conducted over the past 20 years on this population, I will outline some key drivers of bison distribution at the interplay between farmlands and a protected national park. Our research outlines some challenges involved with the preservation of the free-ranging bison, including how social information increasingly drives bison into an ecological trap.

About the speaker

Daniel Fortin is a professor in the department of biology at Université Laval. He received his doctorate in Zoology from the University of Guelph (Canada), and then conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Alberta (Canada) on wolf-elk interactions in Yellowstone National Park. The main objective of his current research is to better understand the effect of behavioural mechanisms on animal distributions in heterogeneous landscapes. To reach this goal, he investigates various ecological topics such as: resource selection, animal movement, trophic interactions, and behavioural response to anthropogenic modifications of the landscape. Knowledge gained from his studies is intended to help in the management of wildlife populations and preservation of biodiversity by increasing our ability to predict spatio-temporal dynamics of ecological systems.