Standardized Occupancy Maps for Selected Wildlife in Central British Columbia


  • Robert Scott McNay Wildlife Infometrics Inc
  • Glenn Sutherland Cortex Consultants Inc.
  • Don Morgan British Columbia Ministry of Forest and Range


Central Interior Ecoregion, climate change, Dendroctonus ponderosae, habitat supply modelling, lodgepole pine, mountain pine beetle, Pinus contorta, species occupancy


Habitat occupancy models were developed for 10 vertebrate species that we expected would demonstrate a gradient of response to extensive losses of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and other linked habitat alterations resulting from the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) infestation and gradual changes in regional climate. A process-based Bayesian Belief Network approach was used to develop interlinked species models focussed at two levels of land management: (1) the forest stand level including changes in forest overstorey and understorey species composition, within-stand structures, canopy closure, and amounts of standing and fallen deadwood; and (2) the landscape level including changes in size of habitat patches, seral stage composition, and proximity to roads. We also considered indirect influences of broad ecological changes including alteration of some key species interactions (e.g., displacement
from preferred habitat and [or] increased risk of mortality). We used results of this modelling to provide preliminary predictions of species occupancy in a large area of British Columbia designated by the Nature Conservancy of Canada as their Central Interior ecoregion. This work demonstrates an approach to building species occupancy models capable of representing the effects of large-scale disturbances on habitat supply at both the stand and landscape levels of habitat management. The resultant occupancy maps are also useful when integrated into various strategic planning initiatives including species recovery, silvicultural investments, and long-term conservation planning.

Author Biographies

Robert Scott McNay, Wildlife Infometrics Inc

Scott McNay is a registered professional forester and professional biologist whose 27 year career began with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Slocan Forests Products Ltd.; he is currently employed as project manager for Wildlife Infometrics Inc. in Mackenzie, BC.  Scott has implemented a variety of extensive research, adaptive management, and habitat modeling projects focused on improving the integrated management of timber and non-timber forest values.  His PhD, in 1995 at the University of BC, was fundamental to his involvement in adaptive management projects for black-tailed deer on Vancouver Island and northern caribou in north-central BC. His interest in the interactions of spatial/temporal dynamics in the forecast of habitat supply has led to the development of species occupancy models for a variety of species and to the application of those models for numerous planning activities over large areas in BC.  Scott has led research and modeling to support the establishment of Recovery Actions and Ungulate Winter Ranges for 5 herds of woodland caribou in north-central BC.  His work to support recovery and management of caribou populations in BC and elsewhere continues in a variety of roles with government, industry, and First Nations; Scott also co-ordinates a number of Environmental Impact Assessments for Ecosystems North, a division of Wildlife Infometrics Inc.

Glenn Sutherland, Cortex Consultants Inc.

Glenn Sutherland is a senior systems ecologist with Cortex Consultants Inc with 26 years of experience in applied research with natural resource problems. He has worked primarily on methods for assessing ecosystem-level and species-level conservation status in response to threats on landscapes. By developing and applying various decision tools and rules for integrating ecological and socio-economic values, he works to better inform policy makers about the viability of alternative options for resource management policies. His main research area focuses on developing and applying cumulative effects methods for describing and analyzing conjoint ecological and management risks to ecological systems (esp. species-at-risk) with an emphasis on the dynamics of habitat supply and populations. Currently he is a member of Environment Canada’s science review team for the boreal caribou recovery strategy, and is engaged in developing approaches to incorporating climate change into local and regional sustainability indicators in the lower Skeena basin.

Don Morgan, British Columbia Ministry of Forest and Range

Don Morgan is a natural resource management and systems researcher with the BC Ministry of Environment, Ecosystem Protection and Sustainability Branch.  His main research area focuses on methods for describing and analyzing socio-ecological systems with an emphasis on wildlife habitat supply.  He applies innovative methods to explore uncertainty, particularly the impact of climate change on ecological processes and its interaction with resource management decisions. Currently he is the team leader of the Future Forest Ecosystem Initiative’s Provincial forest and range vulnerability assessment, and a local vulnerability assessment in the upper Skeena basin.


He is a Registered Professional Biologist in British Columbia, and has a B.Sc. in wildlife biology and computational mathematics from Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario (1984),  a B.Sc.(honours) from Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario in Quantitative Ecology and Computer Science (1991), and an M.Sc. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (biology) from the University of Northern B.C (2011).






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