Big old trees almost gone forever in B.C., scientists warn

Fewer mammoth old-growth trees remain than you imagine

Picture an old growth forest. You probably imagine towering, six-foot-wide trees carrying layers of silvery lichen and emerald moss. But according to a report recently released by three B.C. scientists, only three per cent of B.C.’s old growth forest is comprised of these highly productive mammoth trees.

Almost one-quarter of B.C. forests are considered old growth, but most of it is small trees — between five and 15 metres tall — in forests with low productivity. Just three per cent supports large trees, 20 metres and taller. Provincial statistics are misleading, the report authors say, because they do not distinguish between forest types.

Tall, old trees are highly valuable as timber, making them a prime target for harvesting. On Vancouver Island, 50 per cent of the average timber harvest is listed as old growth.

Half of Vancouver Island’s tree harvest comes from old growth, according to provincial statistics. (BC government | https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth/)

B.C.’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, states that these types of forests are naturally rare. Only a small portion of B.C.’s geography supports this type of forest, and it’s almost all logged.

“These ecosystems are effectively the white rhino of old-growth forests. They are almost extinguished and will not recover from logging,” write authors Karen Price, Rachel F. Holt, and Dave Daust. The trio are part of an independent consulting firm from Smithers and Nelson, B.C. and produced the report to coincide with the Old Growth Strategic Review initiated by the province.

The strategic review tasked two foresters with recommending new old-growth forest management policy, based on public and stakeholder engagement and studying other regions’ management practices. Their report was due April 30, 2020, but has not yet been released to the public.

RELATED: Public engagement on North Cowichan forest reserve begins this month

Old-growth forests are culturally significant for First Nations peoples, ecologically important, and in B.C., are a well-branded tourist attraction. And yet, the report argues, there is insufficient protection for such delicate assets.

Old forests have mixed physical structures, fallen logs, snags, live trees and vibrant understory combine to support diverse inhabitants — from the micro-fauna in the soil to ungulates (such as deer and moose) and bears. They also contribute ecologically by storing carbon and “collecting, filtering, cooling and transporting water, gathering nutrients from the atmosphere, providing nurse logs for the next generation of trees, and building soil.”

The report calls on the government to update forest management strategy for the current mix of forests, and to place a moratorium on old-growth logging in any area with less than 10 per cent old growth remaining.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ConservationEnvironment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Alert Bay tested for COVID-19 antibodies, results prove efforts were effective

Just 3.7 per cent of people tested have the antibody

BC Parks acquires private land in Cape Scott Provincial Park

Land previously held by B.C. land and cattle mogul Rudy Nielsen

Family Literacy Society surveying essential skills among displaced workers

Survey results will help get training opportunities to fufill real needs on the north Island

A thousand items donated to the Port Hardy RCMP’s summer toy drive

‘Building strong relationships with the people of our communities is fundamental to our success here’

Man arrested after stabbing incident at makeshift camp near Vancouver Island mall

RCMP in Parksville report 28-year-old man taken into custody without incident

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Most Read