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 comprises 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 three authors are part of an independent consulting firm based in 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

 

Comments are closed

Just Posted

UVic research team creating virus-resistant washbasins for post-pandemic world

Civil engineer Rishi Gupta hopes basins will be installed in public spaces

Walk for Peace takes a virtual turn for Victoria Hospice

Residents can still register for Gordy Dodd’s 11th annual fundraiser

United Way Greater Victoria launches Hi Neighbour program in Esquimalt

Feedback sought from residents about funding for micro community projects

VicPD to reopen front counter services on Monday

No masks provided, but encouraged to be worn

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read