Woodland caribou: the economy to the rescue

The woodland caribou population of Labrador's boreal forest declined dramatically between 1980 and 1997, to the point where the species was listed as endangered and hunting was prohibited in 2002.

While today its chance of survival is relatively good, the main threat to the woodland caribou now lies with commercial logging.

The main threat to the woodland caribou now lies with commercial logging.

In search of a solution to this problem, Pierre Lasserre and Skander Ben Abdallah, research professor and lecturer respectively with the Department of Economics at Université du Québec à Montréal, determined the minimum habitat thresholds necessary for the survival of the woodland caribou, and then applied a "Real Option Approach" to the situation.

This method consists of evaluating the possible options in a decision making process. For example, banning logging could prevent the extinction of a species, but may also result in serious economic consequences, notably loss of employment and loss of timber revenue for the communities that depend on the forestry industry.

As a result of their work, the researchers succeeded in establishing an optimal rule for stopping and resuming logging that does not require long banning periods while it drastically reduces the extinction risk and increases forest value.

This research also provides valuable recommendations to forest management decision makers.