Forest productivity mitigates human disturbance effects on late-seral prey exposed to apparent competitors and predators.
, Claude Dussault, Sandra Heppell, Marie-Claude Prima, Martin-Hughes St-Laurent, Guillaume Szor.
Primary production can determine the outcome of management actions on ecosystem properties, thereby defining sustainable management. Yet human agencies commonly overlook spatiooral variations in productivity by recommending fixed resource extraction thresholds. We studied the influence of forest productivity on habitat disturbance levels that boreal caribou - a threatened, late-seral ungulate under top-down control - should be able to withstand. Based on 10 years of boreal caribou monitoring, we found that adult survival and recruitment to populations decreased with landscape disturbance, but increased with forest productivity. This benefit of productivity reflected the net outcome of an increase in resources for apparent competitors and predators of caribou, and a more rapid return to the safety of mature conifer forests. We estimated 3-fold differences in forest harvesting levels that caribou populations could withstand due to variations in forest productivity. The adjustment of ecosystem provisioning services to local forest productivity should provide strong conservation and socio-economic advantages. © 2017 The Author(s).