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Issues Pertaining to Forest Ecology in Canada



Canada has a diverse variety of trees falling under many species. In the boreal zone, moving northward from Quebec and Ontario, maple, birch, and spruce forests are dominant. In the prairies, there are poplar, pine, hemlock, Douglas-fir, and cedar. The forests are a great contributor to the economy, environmental, and social wellbeing. The total forest cover stands at 348 million ha out of which 153 million ha qualifies as sustainably managed.

In 2012, 8.6 million ha were destroyed by insects; 4.2million ha burned down in 2013 while 0.6 million ha were harvested in 2012 and 0.05 million ha deforested in the same year. The forests are vital for employment, wildlife habitat, sources of water, and clean air as well as the production of wood products. This essay seeks to examine the status of Canadian forests regarding the woods ecology, management policy, and conservation.

Forest Ecology

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The Role of Natural Disturbance

The Canadian Boreal Forest is prone to natural fire ignited by lighting and worsened by high temperatures that increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of wildfires. The trend has been evident for more than three decades. The area burned in North America inclusive of Canada doubled as a result of raised temperatures in the last 20-30 years. The decline in forest cover due to increased drought/temperature provides adequate fuel for wildfires, thus, promoting the ability of inferno to destroy large tracts of forest, burning down plants, animals, and other living organisms in the area, as well as their habitat.

The warm season provides suitable breeding conditions for the insect species that act as forest pests. In the Western Canadian Boreal Forest, warmer winter temperatures promote the expansion of mountain pine beetle, spruce budworm, spruce bark beetle, jack pine budworm, and forest tent caterpillar that are the major pests that increase timber losses The losses associated with these pests are greater than those inflicted by wildfires, and since the growth of pests is projected to increase, associated losses will rise as well. The pests are therefore significant destroyers of forest in Canada.

Climate change is another major issue that harms forests in Canada. A rise in temperature leads to promoted plant growth, but when the temperatures exceed the threshold, it damages the growth trend. Research reveals that the Canadian boreal forests no longer benefit from increased temperature. The temperature also reduces water availability, thus, limiting the biological processes of forest growth. Also, increased temperature leads to the migration of some species that are unable to cope with the extreme weather. On the contrary, utterly wet season leads to the freeze of a thaw that promotes damage such as frost burn and leaf fall. Reduced light intensity diminishes the rate of photosynthesis and hence inhibits plant growth. Regarding the above statement, the climate is a crucial force of the forest ecosystem.

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Saprophytic Fungi in Forests

The interaction between trees and fungi that inhabits the wood is a vital process in the ecosystem of forests. As trees continue growing, they accumulate the woody biomass, and when the tree dies, saprophytic fungi recycle carbon and minerals that the tree used growing. Fungi act as parasites as they enter the woody plant tissues through root infection or wounds. Even if the tree has some resistance, it eventually succumbs to the disease, falls, and the process leads to minor disturbance in the forest growth. Fungi live as small spores in the air and soil, thus, they will easily prey on any fallen log.

As fungi penetrate the wooden structure, they cause a decay that releases the nutrients and carbon contained in the wood providing growing trees with more carbon in the air and additional nutrients in the soil. Also, as fungi cause wood decay, it creates niches for a variety of organisms that depends on the deadwood. They are for instance fungi, hole-nesting birds, and insects among others. In this regard, fungi act as ecosystem engineers. Fungi, therefore, are an important player in the forest ecosystem as it executes crucial roles as stated above.

The Importance of the Dead and Decaying Wood in Sustaining Forest Diversity

Trees derive nutrients and water from the soil as well as carbon from the air to support the growth processes such as photosynthesis. Continuing growing, they may deplete the ground nutrients as well as extract a lot of carbon from the air. The development may render the soil infertile as well as create a deficiency of carbon in the air retarding the forest growth. Large trees act as carbon and nutrients lock up as they store the stuff in their wood tissues. There must be a release of large quantities of nutrients and carbon for the woods to continue regenerating.

Thus old trees must die to unlock held up elements. When trees drop branches or fall themselves, they begin decaying, hence releasing carbon into the air while nutrients get back to the soil to support the growth of younger plants. The role of decaying wood in the forest ecosystem is releasing carbon and nutrients to encourage the regeneration of trees. Also, rotting logs provide a niche for the ecosystem engineers/fungi that help to hasten the unlocking of nutrients and carbon by feeding on the poles. Fallen trees are therefore important as they provide food for others in the forest ecosystem.

Forest Management Policy

Prospects of Biomass as an Energy Source

Canada is a leading country in the use and production of renewable energy at the global level. Biomass and other clean energy sources contribute up to 17% of the primary sources of energy in Canada. In the country, hydro-electric energy is the largest renewable source that rates at 60% while others, such as wind, solar, tidal power, and biomass contribute 3% to the power grid. However, solar and wind energy is the fastest-growing energy source with a more than 40% increase in the last ten years. Wind turbines have spread all over the country making wind a prominent power resource.

Canada has a surplus of hydroelectric power that the country exports to the United States of America. The government continues to invest more in solar and wind energy, thus, the trend does not depict the chances of increased growth of the biomass as a clean source of energy. Continuous and increased investment in the wind and solar power, while biomass remains behind, shows that the government is keen on the other two. Thus the production and the use of biomass power are not likely to increase.

Impacts of Clear Cut Logging on Biodiversity

While some species in the Canadian Boreal Forest can survive in various habitats, some species specialize in a particular niche within a habitat. For instance species such as the Woodland Caribou and the American Marten that need mature old forests and logging may deprive such organisms of their habitat. Logging may also create a barrier for movement between habitats and thus it may inhibit different species from migrating between habitats in times of hardships and thus exposing them to the danger that may even kill them. Such a factor may also increase the rate of predation of individual species due to a lack of essential habitat resources.

Logging may also homogenize the landscape by depleting unique types of trees and other vegetation that forms diversification of the ecosystem. Also, tree harvesting causes damage as trees fall on others leading to the breakage of many growing trees especially young ones. Also, logging interrupts the carbon cycle in the forest ecosystem as the removal of logs from the forest zone implies carting away nutrients and carbon from the woods. Logging may also provoke a climate change, hampering the survival of some of the particular species. However, logging may also promote forest regeneration by removing overgrown trees to pave the way for the growth of smaller ones.

Reforestation Methods in Boreal Forest

In Canada, the strategy of using plantation stock grown in nurseries is a standard norm. For instance, in Alberta, provincial agencies, as well as companies, grow approximately 80 million seedlings for reforesting 50,000 ha every year. However, the strategy does not work haphazardly as the seedlings must match the genetic requirements of the particular host environment and this implies that the seedlings transferred to boreal forest land are the same species as the trees growing there.

Another strategy for reforestation is clearing old trees to allow room for small trees to grow. The essence of the second strategy is unlocking the carbon and nutrients held up in plant tissues to encourage the growth of smaller trees. Also, clearing the forests removes the excess shading. Hence, it enables smaller trees to grow healthily due to increasing access to sun rays. Planting of seedlings, as well as clearing of forests, therefore are suitable ways of reforesting the Boreal zone.

Impacts of Forest Pesticides on Biodiversity

The use of pesticides was a traditional form of pest control in the Canadian Boreal region. However, the application of chemicals reduced as the authorities seek to use alternative means. In 1990, Canada had applied pesticides on 370,000 ha of the forest but the trend reduced as by 2009 only 132,000 ha were sprayed while in 2010, the chemicals were used on 160,000 ha of forests. The advantage of pesticides is that they kill pests reducing the defoliation of trees. On the contrary, the disadvantage of this method is the impact on non-target organisms.

For instance, the spraying is carried out by helicopters, thus, they spill chemicals into rivers affecting fish and other aquatic organisms. The chemicals also kill the forest pests as opposed to leaving them to die through natural means. Hence, this reduces forest biodiversity. Also, the spray affects people near forests as well as the animals living in the thickets. Regarding the above information, the chemical means of controlling forest pests is harmful to biodiversity. Thus it is wise to adopt natural ways.

Forest Conservation

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

The Canadian Boreal Forest is one of the largest in the world. There have been efforts to mobilize the players in the forest industry and the conservation groups to work together. The aim of this initiative is to balance the economic interests with the need to protect the ecosystem and unique species inhabiting the forest. In May 2010, all of 21 forest product industries in Canada who are also the members of the Forest Products Association of Canada and the Non-governmental Organizations dealing with environmental issues signed a multi-year agreement that was full of ambitions. The agreement determined six goals for tackling economic and ecological sustainability.

  • The first goal was to achieve world-leading boreal sustainable management practices on the site based on the active adaptive administration and ecosystem-based management.
  • Secondly, parties agreed to complete a network of protected areas to represent the ecosystem in the Boreal zone and to provide an ecological benchmark.
  • The third goal was the recovery of the Woodland Caribou and other species at risk in the forest.
  • The fourth goal was reducing the greenhouse gas emission in the full lifecycle from forests to industries.
  • The fifth was to increase the prosperity of the forest sector in Canada.

The last was to recognize the stakeholders of the boreal forest and the agreement to serve their interests. The agreement, therefore, had a set of realistic goals, and thus it was a large step towards sustainability and responsibility.

The Great Bear Rain Forest Protected Area

The Great Bear Rain Forest lies in British Columbia and has 6.4 ha that marks ? of the world's unlogged temperate coastal rain forests. Those experience heavy rains of 3-5 mm annually and have a moderate climate and mountains. Also, the area has coniferous trees with very low rates of natural stand-replacing disturbance. It has large trees composing ancient forests and is home to wolves, bears, and salmon, among others. Other species are also present, such as mosses, fungi, and lichen. Close to 22,000 people live in the forest and half of them are of the First Nation/Aboriginal ancestry.

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There was a concern to protect the rich natural heritage from mechanized log harvesting, and this led to protests and marketplace campaigns. In 2001, British Columbia made a commitment to protect the forest, and in 2006 there was a realization of an agreement on community wellbeing and forest conservation. The parties in this agreement were the government, three environmental organizations, and the logging industries. The agreement led to the protection of 33% of the forest, i.e. hectares, from logging. The agreement was, therefore, a large step towards the conservation of the forest.

Proposed Pimachiowin: UNESCO World Heritage Site in Manitoba

The site lies in the Northern Canada Boreal Forest and merges the protected area in Ontario and Manitoba to the First Nation's traditional land. The Anishinabek traditional lands incorporated into the shaded areas depict a region rich in the wilderness and natural values stretching across 43,000 km2 of land. The initiative appears as a trans-boundary attempt to foster and promote community-based approaches in the management of protected areas, as well as to promote development and tourism in the region.

In 2002, the First Nation communities signed the Protected Areas First Nation Stewardship Accord, whereby they saw the need for collective action to develop sustainable opportunities for the people while protecting their ancient land according to their traditional values and management practices. The protected areas include the Nanowin Rivers Park Reserve, Parks of Nopiming, and the Atikaki and South Atikaki Provincial Parks in Manitoba. The others are the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Eagle Snowshoe Conservation Park in Ontario. A park shall, therefore, represent a rich heritage in Canadian tourism.

Conserving the Spotted Owls in the Coastal Temperate Rain Forest

The Spotted Owl is an endangered species not only in Canada but also in the United States. The bird’s coloration has chocolate-and-white, and its niche is the old-growth temperate rain forest that is under the threat of increased industrial logging. The bird does not survive in the second-growth forests, thus clearing the old forests may lead to its extinction. In 1986, the Committee on the Status of the Endangered Wildlife classified the bird as an endangered species. By 2004, the number of breeding pairs was less than 30, and logging in British Columbia was at its worst.

In 2002, two of the logging companies volunteered to stop destroying the habitat, but the provincial leadership showed no interest. By 2004, the province increased wood harvesting through the Crown Corporation, and there was no sign of compromising the economic interests despite the pressure from environmental conservation groups. Reports projected that with the trend, the bird would have become extinct by 2010. The above information depicts the irresponsibility of the British Columbia administration, as it seems to disregard environmental matters.

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Conclusion

Canada has a variety of trees that serves the economic and ecological interests. There is a significant role of natural disturbances such as fire, climate, and pests among others. Saprophytic fungi play a vital role in the forest ecology and the nutrient cycle, as it decomposes wood to release the nutrients and carbon. The fallen logs are also crucial since they provide a home for fungi, as well as their decaying releases the stored carbon and foodstuff to facilitate the growth of others. In Canada, there is no sign of increased use of biomass because the government invests more in ion wind and solar energy.

Clear-cut logging is not desirable, as it destroys habitat for animals. The major reforestation method in boreal is the use of transplanted seedlings. The utilization of pesticides is harmful because it affects the untargeted species, such as aquatic creatures and human beings among others. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was an initiative to balance economic interests and sustainability. The Great Bear Rain Forest Protected Area led to the protection of hectares from logging.

The Proposed Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage Site in Manitoba is an effort to foster community approaches to the management of protected areas. Regarding the Spotted Owl protection, the British Columbia acted inappropriately by failing to control logging. Given the above-mentioned information, Canada is rich in diversity, but a lot needs to be done to monitor the loss of the individual species.

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