Mapping Muskox Habitat in the Canadian High Arctic with SPOT Satellite Data


  • Cheryl M. Pearce



Animal distribution, Animal food, Mapping, Muskoxen, Plant distribution, Remote sensing, Satellite photography, Sedges, Polar deserts, Wildlife habitat, Plant cover, Devon Island, Nunavut, Truelove Lowland


SPOT satellite data were used to detect and map muskox habitat on Devon Island, N.W.T. Muskox habitat in the Canadian High Arctic is restricted to small islands of productive sedge meadow isolated within a matrix of sparsely vegetated polar desert. On Devon Island, muskox herds move among small lowlands on the northeast coast adjacent to Jones Sound in response to the seasonal availability of sedge-dominated habitat. Comparisons between the enhanced satellite images and species composition, plant cover, and standing crop on these lowlands showed that sedge meadows were spectrally distinct from the dwarf shrub/heath and cushion plant/lichen-moss types on beach ridges and rock outcrops, indicating that spectral data can be used to identify critical forage habitat for muskoxen in the High Arctic. The hummocky sedge/moss meadow and the less productive frost boil sedge/moss meadow types could be separated from each other on the enhanced imagery. The satellite data were simplified using a supervised classification to document the type and areal cover of muskox habitat along the northeast coast of Devon Island. The spatially isolated hummocky sedge/moss and frost boil sedge/moss meadows occupied only 3% (16.73 sq/km) and 6% (32.84 sq/km) respectively of a total land area of 549.38 sq/km.

Key words: muskox habitat, SPOT satellite data, sedge meadows, Devon Island, Truelove Lowland