Arctic-Boreal regions (ABRs) of North America are warming at a rate almost three times higher than the global average, and the biophysical responses are acute. Most regional scale studies to date have explored consequences on biogeochemical cycling and energy balance. Far less attention has been paid to the vulnerability and resilience of wildlife throughout the ABR, despite the fact that the region hosts the planet's most diverse neotropical migrant songbird communities, caribou which are among the most abundant long range migratory large herbivores in the Northern Hemisphere, and intact yet threatened mammalian trophic systems. Many ABR species play unique ecological roles and are of cultural and economic significance to indigenous people.

ABoVE study domain
ABoVE study domain

Many recent studies suggest that animal habitat throughout the ABR is undergoing rapid and profound change. For example, the region is undergoing altered vegetation productivity, phenology, composition, and bio-physical and -chemical structures; more extreme swings in seasonality of meteorological conditions; more frequent drought conditions; changes in snow and ice cover properties, dynamics and duration; enhancement of disturbance regimes, and; increasing human development. Each of these changes alters wildlife habitat in unique ways - very often overlapping and interacting with one another in time and space. In addition, there is high spatial heterogeneity in both the direction and magnitude of these changes across the ABR, yet little effort has been made to understand the ecological consequences. Highly mobile fauna of the ABR must navigate through an increasingly complex and dynamic mosaic of environmental and land surface conditions, but how vulnerable or resistant their long-term persistence is to the increasing spatiotemporal heterogeneity is unknown.
Although there has been some focus on how changing conditions in the ABR affect wildlife habitat quality and selection, the overwhelming majority of these studies have focused on how habitat selection by one species (or community of similar species) responds to a single extreme or disturbance event. Recent and emerging advances in space-based animal tracking technology allow direct measurement of wildlife movements across animal taxa, over vast and remote regions, and over multiple years.

Importantly, these regional-scale and near-continuous descriptions of animal locations can be explicitly linked to remote sensing observations of dynamic environmental conditions, which enables examination of animal responses to a wide range of environmental conditions and extreme events that occur - often unpredictably - throughout their ranges and life histories.

Our overarching science goal is to understand how highly mobile terrestrial fauna navigate and select habitat in the rapidly changing ABoVE Study Domain. Facilitated by many data-sharing collaborations with US and Canadian government agencies, we will use space-based wildlife tracking technology to build an integrated dataset of regional-scale and near-continuous descriptions of passerine (American robins), raptor (Golden Eagles), ungulate (caribou, moose), and predator (wolf and brown bear) locations with both static and dynamic remote sensing products and other regional-scale geospatial datasets (Obj.1). We will use this data to build empiricallybased statistical movement and habitat selection models for multiple groups of animals across the ABoVE Study Domain (Obj.2). The geospatial tools and products will be made accessible to natural resource agencies, wildlife managers, First Nations, Alaskan natives, and other stakeholders to aid them in management and adaptation decisions (Obj.3). Further, our novel models and geospatial tools will be available for Phase 2 and 3 ABoVE studies in which future projections of animal movement and habitat selection will be made, and subsequently used to determine societal consequences and develop decision support products.