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Fire/logging for stable forest ecosystem?

Richard Winder rwinder at PFC.Forestry.CA
Fri May 6 12:09:02 EST 1994

In article <1994May4.191630.7944 at news.brandonu.ca>, neufeld at news.brandonu.ca writes:
>I have been trying to put a few ideas together about logging in
>British Columbia and would like some feedback from you.
>1. Selective logging can be detrimental to the forest gene pool.
>When only the largest, straight, prime specimens are removed from a
>forest, the remaining trees either are genetically inferior members of
>a desirable species or members of a less desirable species. If this is
>correct, the optimum harvesting practice would seem to be small clear

Correct.  One only has to look at forests in the East Coast of North America.
There are some excellent foresters there, but, owing to the relatively small
size of many woodlots and lack of public concern, fly-by-night or 
do-it-yourself operations have been the rule for the past 300 years.  In the 
absence of good public forestry education, the results were predictable-  
It's hard to find a large, straight, single-stemmed maple tree in some areas.
Standard practice is to assure the landowner that you will only take 
everything over 6" dbh (give or take a few inches), and that this type of 
harvest constitutes appropriate selective logging.  Then what happens is that
the best is taken, and the genetic scrap is left behind.  Pretty soon, people
begin to believe that all maple trees are *supposed* to have multiple-forked
bases that crack open in the wind, beckoning to any passing fungal pathogen...

In B.C., where, contrary to popular opinion, big trees are still plentiful,
this has only recently become a concern with the move to reduce clear-cutting-
most loggers you talk to here insist that leaving seed trees during selective
harvest was standard practice here from the very beginning... there was no 
need to be greedy with so many trees around (many people don't realize it, 
but a small amount of selective logging has always been kicking around B.C.
to various degrees).  I've seen the practice of leaving seed trees being 
reemphasized as part of the new push for selective logging in B.C.- it goes 
hand-in-hand with avoiding other things like ending up with only undesirable
species (in general, we're talking about highballing).  You could probably 
accuse foresters here of many things, but I don't think that degrading the 
genetic stock on a wide scale is necessarily one of them (yet).

>2. Preventing forest fires and logging in a forest leads to a buildup
>   of forest trash that can exacerbate the damage when a forest fire
>   eventually burns through an area.
>Some forest ecosystems, such as the longleaf pine - wiregrass
>ecosystem of the south-eastern US, are fire adapted and will not be
>sustained if forest fires are prevented (beech-magnolia takes over).
>Are the forests of BC similar? I remember reading that the forest
>fires that burned through Yellowstone a few years ago caused so much
>damage because of the trash buildup that resulted from preventing
>natural fires and logging in previous years. Are forest fires and or
>logging necessary to maintain a stable forest ecosystem in BC? Are
>there important differences in management practices of the coastal
>temperate rain forests and the drier interior regions?

We've got an entire research dept. here modeling things like this in B.C.
forest fires- you should contact Dr. Brad Hawkes (604-3630665; or see
address at end of post).  He'll know who has expert opinions regarding the 
effect of litter accumulation, etc. on forest fires in B.C.	-RSW

  RICHARD WINDER                    Title: Research Scientist
  Canadian Forest Service           Phone: (604) 363-0773
  Victoria, B.C.                    Internet: RWINDER at A1.PFC.Forestry.CA

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