BCs Inland Rainforest Conservation and Community

Conference Proceedings

Ecosystem Recovery how have forests of the north western Interior Cedar-Hemlock zone responded to past disturbances?

Ben Heemskerk 1, Erin Hall 2 and Allen Banner 3

In British Columbia, ecosystem-based management initiatives are being implemented for a variety of forest management and harvesting practices often without adequate data on how forests have responded to past disturbances. The overall objective of this project is to quantify selected second growth Interior Cedar Hemlock (ICHmc1 and ICHmc2) forest ecosystem attributes to provide a field-based assessment of ecosystem recovery following disturbance. This objective is being accomplished through a retrospective examination of existing second growth forest stands that have developed after man-caused and natural disturbances. The intent is to characterize the ecological condition and level of ecosystem recovery toward 'old-growth' stand conditions. Ecosystem attributes being assessed include overstory and understory species composition and cover, forest growth, epiphytic lichen and bryophyte composition, soil properties, and stand structure including snags and CWD. These data provide a basis for comparison with the same attributes in old-growth plots that have been collected largely within the provincial Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification Program over the past 30 years.

Initial results indicate that at 81 to 140 years and 141 to 200 years after disturbance, vegetative characteristics have re-established with roughly 60% and 70% similarity, respectively, to that of old-growth stands (>200yrs). Second growth ICH stands (<80yrs) throughout the study area contain less western hemlock and true firs with higher levels of spruce and pine when compared to old-growth stands. In addition second growth stands in the ICHmc2 have decreased levels of western redcedar. With current management scenarios assuming rotation lengths of +/- 100 years this could result in decreased levels of species diversity and structural complexity, in turn limiting ecosystem integrity and resilience. The results of this study should aid in establishing future forest management practices including reforestation and harvesting methods that meet the challenges of climate change and ecosystem based management.

Contact Information

1 BC Ministry of Forests and Range, Smithers, BC. Email: Ben.Heemskerk@gov.be.ca

2 BC Ministry of Forests and Range, Smithers, BC. Email: Erin.Hall@gov.bc.ca

3 BC Ministry of Forests and Range, Smithers, BC. Email: Allen.Banner@gov.bc.ca

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