Our biodiversity conservation research focuses on studying species, community and ecosystem processes in threatened or managed ecosystems.
First and foremost, we are studying the responses of plant, butterfly and bird taxa to habitat fragmentation associated with in situ oil sands developments in northeast Alberta. As well as understanding biodiversity responses to disturbances and identifying mitigation strategies, we are also investigating active and passive restoration of seismic line disturbances which dominate the habitat fragmentation process.
A second major emphasis is understanding the effects of variable retention forest harvesting (residual unharvested patches of trees left within harvest blocks) on biodiversity as part of the long-term, large-scale EMEND (Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance) project. This project seeks to understand the potential biodiversity gains in using modified forest harvest designs that ’emulate’ landscape patterns associated with natural fire regimes, such as using fire patterns (including remnant forest island patches) as a model for designing harvest patterns. We are testing whether this hastens the recovery of biodiversity to the disturbance first by ‘life-boating’ species in the remnant patches and second by facilitating more rapid colonization in the disturbed part of the harvest (rescue effect).