BC’s Inland Rainforest – Conservation and Community

Conference Proceedings


Inland Temperate Rainforests: Made in Canada


Trevor Goward 1

The Temperate Rainforest biome is a highly disjunct, globally rare vegetation type accounting for less than 0.5% of the world's land surface. Eight temperate rainforest formations have been recognized worldwide, a majority of which occur on oceanic islands or along the margins of continents. By far the largest and certainly best known example is the Coastal Temperate Rainforest formation of Pacific North America, which extends roughly 3600 km from Alaska to California. Much smaller, and certainly less well known is its inland counterpart, the Inland Rainforest formation. Unlike Coastal Temperate Rainforests, Inland Rainforests are highly discontinuous, being confined to a half dozen valleys in inland British Columbia between 54°N to 51°N, with a few small outliers in Washington and Idaho. Though ancient in terms of environmental continuity – the oldest Inland Rainforests are now known to be multigenerational (= "antique") – the formation itself is comparatively recent, having attained its modern configuration only three or four thousand years ago, with the arrival of Western Red-cedar. Owing to a pronounced ability to translocate soil nutrients into the forest canopy, large old Red-cedar trees have favoured the establishment of an internationally significant epiphytic lichen flora – including many rare species not present in Coastal Temperate Rainforests. The oldest Inland Rainforests perform several ecological functions – ports of entry for recent colonizers, range extenders for oceanic species, source populations for the maintenance of regional biodiversity – that will be lost with the ongoing loss of old forests to logging. This in turn will certainly entrain the "silent" extirpation of innumerable species currently well established in inland British Columbia. As the only major ecosystem at temperate latitudes to occur entirely – or essentially so – within Canada, the Inland Rainforests are an indisputably Canadian responsibility. Government and industry owe it to Canadians to ensure that the values these forests represent are not lost to future generations in the name of short-term profit.

Contact Information


1 Herbarium, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6G 2B1, Canada . Email: tgoward@interchange.ubc.ca

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"Treebeard" (above) is portrayed courtesy of McBride artist Sheilagh Foster.

 
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