Mountain Caribou Project: "The Wet Belt"

Inland Temperate Rainforest and Caribou

Mountain caribou have a distinctive migration pattern which involves moving up and down in elevation twice a year. In the late fall and early winter, as deep unconsolidated snows begin to blanket the higher elevations in the mountains, caribou head down in elevation and seek shelter and food in late successional western red cedar and western hemlock forests. These cedar-hemlock forests are amazingly similar to the rainforests found along the coast in the Pacific Northwest, creating a very unusual habitat--interior rainforest.

_10B9749

_10B9555

Subalpine Snow Forests

As the winter proceeds and the snowpack builds, caribou head up in elevation to mature stands of subalpine forest dominated by Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir where they feed almost exclusively on black tree lichen which grows on these trees close to treeline.

_10B8581

_MG_9884

Forests, caribou, and people in a changing climate

Climate change models predict significant changes to the landscapes that caribou call home--with potentially much warmer and drier summers being possibly the most significant change to these landscapes. The impacts of a changing climate on both caribou and humans, who also depend on these forests for water which produces huge amounts of hydro-power in the United States and Canada, and wood which is the chief driver of the economy in this part of Canada, is not precisely known. It appears safe to say that it will add additional stresses to both the human and caribou economy.

_10B9704-HDR

David Moskowitz

David Moskowitz, Winthrop, WA, 98862