Objective 1: To identify all social and biophysical variables related to moose habitat.
Location of Past Fire Occurences
The location of past fire occurrences is the most important criteria chosen for this analysis. Moose have been found to relocate to areas of recent fire activity because they prefer areas with high availability of plants to meet their dietary needs (Pastor et al., 1998). The most favorable conditions typically exist within 5 to 20 years post-fire (Geist, 1998; Fisher & Wilkinson, 2005). For this reason, it is most likely that moose will create their new habitat in past fire extents.
Forest Cover & Wetlands
The second and third criteria are considered equally as important consisting of forest cover and wetlands as moose are typically found in shrublands, forested areas, and/or wetland habitats (Ardea Biological Consulting, 2004). The forest cover is necessary for shelter, where moose require a minimum forest cover of 35 percent and tree height of two meters (Christie & Nason, 2004; Ardea Biological Consulting, 2004). It is important to note that forested habitats are essential to moose survival, but forested area alone cannot support their population. To be a viable habitat it is important that water is available within their habitat range, which can be in the form of lakes, rivers, wetlands, and/or marshlands (Ardea Biological Consulting, 2004).
Ecosite 6 (The Eastern Lowlands)
Ecosite 6 (The Eastern Lowlands) is the fourth criteria, which includes forest cover, marchlands and vegetation types that are consistent with moose habitat requirements. According to Ardea Biological Consulting (2004), moose prefer to inhabit swamps, bogs and marshy areas that have an abundance of surface water and plant life. These areas are suitable feeding habitats during all seasons due to an abundance of shrub and tree buds (Rominger & Oldemeyer, 1989). Since ecosites only provides partial information on a single ecosystem type, it is regarded as less important than forest cover and wetlands.
All Other Ecosites
The last criteria to be considered is all other ecosites which includes the highlands, the northern uplands, the southern uplands, the continental and the grand lake ecoregions of New Brunswick (Ecoregions of New Brunswick, n.d.). These ecosites are considered less suitable for moose habitat due to the vegetation present, and for this reason, all other ecosites are the least important criteria to consider.
The first constraint is non-forest cover areas which will help to determine the best location for moose habitat that does not exist within human-inhabited areas. Areas that are limited to moose populations include parks, agricultural lands, residential areas, industrial areas, large urban sprawls and settlements which are all indicated under non-forest cover (Christie & Nason, 2004). Typically, moose are not preferred to live within or around developed areas, this will be used to determine a buffer zone around non-forested areas so that moose habitats are a minimum distance away from human development (Christie & Nason, 2004). These areas will essentially be given a value of 0 in the MCE model because they are deemed unsuitable for moose habitat.
Federal & Provincial Parks
The second constraint considered is federal and provincial parks. Since these areas contain high levels of recreational activities, such as biking, hiking, and picnics, it is preferred that moose do not inhabit these areas of social interaction. For this reason, all parks will be considered uninhabitable for moose to avoid the possibility of human interaction.
Finally, roads are the last constraint to consider. Moose are able to cross nearly all routes within wildlife management zone 8 (Government of New Brunswick, 2011). Christie and Nason (2004) mention that manmade clear cuts support the growth of vegetation and provide feeding areas near roads, with this in mind, a road can cut through the moose's habitat area of 150 km2. A 10 m buffer will also be placed around all roads to incorporate the likelihood of moose-car collisions (LeResche, 1974). Where a road exists will be considered an unsuitable habitat, in other words, the moose cannot live in this location (Seiler et al., 2003).
Omissions from Analysis
Throughout the study, railways, road fencing and elevation are acknowledged as considerable variables, but are not included in this analysis for the reasons listed below:
Railways are considered as a constraint because moose typically avoid entering non-forested areas, especially areas that feature human development. Contrastingly, railways often cut through suitable moose habitat, making it difficult to evaluate this factor. It has further been determined that there are no existing barriers and since moose frequently cross railways it has been omitted from this analysis (Christie and Nason, 2004).
Next, road fencing along all transportation routes has been omitted from this analysis due to the fact that they prevent moose from crossing roadways. Furthermore, as mentioned in the research approach, the MCE model will determine the most suitable moose habitat, however, it will not determine the migration path of the moose to this new habitat. With this in mind, a 10 m buffer will be placed around all roads.
Lastly, it has been determined that moose typically prefer elevations of 1,000 m above sea level (LeResche, 1974; Snaith et al., 2002; Ardea Biological Consulting, 2004). However, the study area does not exceed this elevation, therefore elevation has been omitted from this analysis.