Background/Question/Methods Applied ecological sciences face two major, accelerating challenges: a world with rapid socio-ecological changes and an influx of data and models. Under these conditions, developing ecological forecasts that are sufficiently reliable, responsive and flexible to the needs of rights holders, policy makers, land managers, stakeholders and the public is extremely difficult. It is necessary to develop an ecological forecasting approach that can keep pace with changes to all these variables. Recently, McIntire et al (Ecology Letters, 2022) introduced the PERFICT approach, a clear framework based on nimble yet robust workflows linking management objectives, data, ecological models and results.
Results/Conclusions To demonstrate this approach, we present the Western Boreal Initiative as a case study. This multi-year ecological forecasting project initially located in the territory of the Dene Nation and other First Peoples (also known as the Northwest Territories, Canada) includes co-production of knowledge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers to support woodland caribou recovery planning. Over the first 2 years of the project, the project objectives, the datasets and the models have frequently been updated or changed; many more such changes are anticipated, exemplifying the need for the PERFICT approach.
Despite forecasts of increased rates of disturbance under climate change, our modelling suggests that caribou populations in the Northwest Territories’ boreal forests could remain stable, in spite of notable changes to habitat. Although several dimensions of this complex issue have not yet been fully woven into our results, our approach allows us to integrate these changes to help bring the most up-to-date data to decisions while enabling the active involvement of all partners. By sharing this approach, we demonstrate some challenges and possible solutions for an applied ecological problem that can be nimble enough for a world under constant flux.