Sustainably managing wildlife species with diverse utilization values is a challenge for natural resource managers across Alaska. These challenges can be amplified under changing environmental conditions. Currently in boreal regions in Alaska, wildfire is the most common ecological disturbance and recent studies predict an increase in frequency, extent, and severity of fire under a changing climate regime. Research also indicates that increasing severity of boreal fires can shift coniferous forests towards deciduous dominated forests. This transformation can influence a broad suite of ecosystem processes including wildlife habitat use. It is generally accepted that burns can sustain or increase moose (Alces alces) populations via habitat regeneration of deciduous browse. Fire-related effects on moose habitat will also likely affect the populations that human communities rely on for hunting. However, several factors such as accessibility, may limit the use of burns by hunters. If managers want to develop strategies that actively incorporate transformed forest systems into moose management plans, more information is needed regarding the complexity of social-ecological variables, their linkages, and feedbacks. Here, we investigate several variables from a case study in Delta Junction, Alaska following a wildfire event including 1) moose densities 2) forage production/removal rates 3) hunter harvest rates 4) and hunter access. We propose scenarios that pay particular attention to the social (accessibility) and ecological (forage production/moose densities) variables that can influence wildlife management decisions of a transformed system.
Brown, C.B., K. Seaton, T. Brinkman, K. Kielland, and E.S. Euskirchen. 2015. Incorporating resilience thinking into management of a moose-hunter system in Alaska. Ecology and Society, Special Issue on 'Northern Socio-ecological Systems'.