The largest spruce beetle epidemic in decades is attacking B.C.’s rain-rich interior, intensifying logging in forests that provide habitat for imperilled species like mountain caribou. But scientists and ecologists say resilient trees will survive and the forest will recover if we only give it a chance
By Sarah Cox, Originally published on October 16, 2019 at The Narwhal
Retired B.C. government forester Judy Thomas bushwhacks down a steep incline in B.C.’s Anzac River valley, north of Prince George, in search of a spruce beetle the size of a mouse turd.
To find one of the marauding insects Thomas has to chop through the coarse bark of an old-growth spruce to its soft inner layer, where a single beetle lays as many as 1,200 eggs. Extended ‘galleries’ of beetle larvae feed on the sapwood, killing the tree in tandem with an associated blue stain fungi.
“Let’s see if they’ve flown the coop,” says Thomas.
She points to telltale signs that the tree, still green and healthy-looking, has been under siege as part of the largest spruce beetle infestation B.C. has witnessed in 30 years.
Frass — a reddish brown sawdust-like substance that is a mixture of beetle poop and chewed tree debris — is sprinkled in bark crevices. The bark also has pitch tubes, appearing as tiny blobs of sap, that form as the tree tries to expel its miniature attackers.
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The world took notice of the summer’s fires in the Amazon region of Brazil. The tropical rainforests are often called “the Earth’s lungs” for the oxygen they supply.
Far less notice is taken of the fate of rainforests in temperate zones, including in the Pacific Northwest. Logging continues on both sides of the US/Canada border, and that concerns a pair of scientists well-versed in the workings of those forests.
Jens Wieting is with Sierra Club BC and Dominick DellaSala is with Geos Institute based in Ashland.
They visit the studio to discuss their concerns for the temperate rainforests and the creatures that depend upon them.
Listen to the exchange: https://www.ijpr.org/post/not-just-brazil-troubles-temperate-rainforests#stream/0
An ancient rainforest in BC’s interior is at risk of disappearing after decades of logging
By Daniel Mesec, published August 19, 2019 at Cascadia Magazine
An ancient rainforest, nestled at the northern edge of the Rocky Mountains, has flourished for thousands of years. But this isn’t just any forest. Towering with western red cedars, western hemlock, spruce, and subalpine fir, British Columbia’s inland temperate rainforest has all the hallmarks of a coastal rainforest, yet it is nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) inland. It’s one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet.
Stretching for more than 200,000 hectares along the Upper Fraser Watershed, this diverse and ecologically sensitive forest is home to a vast array of flora and fauna. The interior cedar hemlock ecozone is not only home to thousand year-old western red cedars, but also mountain hemlock, Engelmann spruce, and subalpine fir. These damp, surprisingly lush forests support habitat for black bears, grizzlies, wolverines, pileated woodpeckers, owls, and many other animal species. But this trove of biodiversity that few people know about is now under threat from recent clear-cut logging.
Only 9 percent of BC’s inland rainforest has been designated as protected areas or parks by the provincial government, leaving more than three quarters of the remaining land open to clear-cut logging, which has removed more than a quarter of all the old-growth cedar and hemlock over the past half century. There is no end in sight.
Scientists warn another B.C. caribou herd could disappear as the provincial government approves 78 new logging cutblocks in critical habitat for the Hart Ranges herd, while construction of a pipeline for LNG industry takes out another chunk of boreal forest
By Sarah Cox, Originally published on Aug 7, 2019 at The Narwhal
Standing near the summit of a clear-cut mountain in B.C.’s interior, overlooking the brown and emerald green Anzac River valley, scientist Dominick DellaSala has a bird’s eye view of why the Hart Ranges caribou herd is at risk of extinction.
Only a fringe of forest remains around the distant mountain peak where the declining herd seeks protection from wolves and other predators in ever-shrinking habitat northeast of Prince George.
“The difference between this and Borneo is that there aren’t any orangutans behind me,” says DellaSala, pointing to extensive clear cuts covering much of the mountain side.
“You’ve got caribou at upper elevations. That’s their habitat out there. And they’re being squished to the top of the tallest mountains because all the habitat’s been taken out down below. The species is migratory, it goes up and down.”
DellaSala, chief scientist and president of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, is touring parts of B.C.’s ancient inland temperate rainforest as part of an Australian-led study documenting the world’s most important unlogged forests.
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Less than one-third of the world’s primary forests are still intact. Deep in the interior of British Columbia, a temperate rainforest that holds vast stores of carbon and is home to endangered caribou is being clear-cut as fast as the Amazon
By Sarah Cox, Originally published on Jul 27, 2019 at The Narwhal
On a balmy day in mid-July, in the heart of British Columbia, Dominick DellaSala steps out of a rented truck to examine the remains of one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet.
DellaSala, a scientist studying global forests that hold vast stores of carbon, is silent for a moment as he surveys a logging road punched through an ancient red cedar and western hemlock grove only days earlier.
A spared cedar tree, at least 400 years old, stands uncloaked in the sun beside the road, an empty bear den hidden in its hollow trunk.
“I haven’t seen logging this bad since I flew over Borneo,” says DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, a partner in an international project to map the world’s most important unlogged forests.
“It was a rainforest. Now it’s a wasteland.”
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At the world’s first breeding centre in Langley, B.C., spotted owls are hatched in incubators, given around the clock medical care and hand fed euthanized rodents in a last-ditch effort to save the species from Canadian extinction. All the while scientists warn that the province has yet to recognize the endangered raptor as a symbol of our escalating failure to protect old-growth forests. Read the entire in-dept piece by Sarah Cox at The Narwhal.
DellaSala likened the spotted owl to the quintessential canary in a coal mine. The owl is an indicator of a “whole complex ecosystem with all the parts that are in jeopardy,” he said. “This is just one of the parts and it’s telling us we have not done a responsible job of maintaining the old-growth ecosystems upon which the owl and thousands of other species depend.”
Over 220 international scientists called on the British Columbia government to halt the rapacious logging of temperate rainforests in the province. BC coastal and inland rainforests are globally rare and strategic to Canada’s commitments to the Paris climate change accord. Read the full letter here.
Old Growth BC rainforests are among the most carbon dense forests on Earth, playing a strategic role in Canada’s commitments to the historic Paris climate change accord. (Photo credit: Conservation North)
Click for the June 28, 2018 press release.
- Interview: Early Edition with Stephen Quinn (Vancouver)
- Interview: On the Island with Gregor Craigie (Vancouver Island)
- Interview: Daybreak South with Chris Walker (Kelowna and Interior BC)
- Interview: Daybreak North with Carolina de Ryk (Prince Rupert, Prince George, Northern BC) – segment begins at 1 hour, 22 minutes
- Article: 223 international scientists urge B.C. to protect provincial rainforests (CBC, June 28, 2018)
- Article: If an old-growth tree falls in a forest, does it make political hay? (Jack Knox for the Times-Colonist, June 29, 2018)
- Op-Ed: Call for action on B.C.’s old-growth rainforests (Dominick DellaSala, Barbara Zimmerman, and Andy MacKinnon, The Province, July 4, 2018)
- Article: B.C. loggers aim to transition away from harvesting old growth — but it could take 90 years (Jon Hernandez, CBC News, July 8, 2018)
- Op-Ed: Our rainforests need action urgently (Jens Weiting, Times-Colonist, July 11, 2018)
You can also learn more about this and other temperate rainforests in “Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World” by Dr. Dominick DellaSala.
Watch and listen to two recent talks given by Dr. Dominick DellaSala at the University of British Columbia (UNBC) Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute. Videos are available on the UNBC website, or click below to go directly to Dominick’s talks.
Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation
Edited by Geos Institute Chief Scientist, Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D.
Temperate and boreal rainforests are biogeographically unique. Compared to their tropical counterparts, they are rarer and at least as endangered. Because most temperate and boreal rainforests are marked by the intersection of marine, terrestrial, and freshwater systems, their rich ecotones are among the most productive regions on Earth. Many of them store more carbon per hectare than even tropical rainforests, contain some of the oldest and largest trees on the planet, and provide habitat for scores of rare and unique species including some with affinities dating back to the supercontinent Gondwanaland and when dinosaurs were king.
Given temperate and boreal rainforests are very wet places and trees are relatively long-lived they are highly productive ecosystems that store carbon for centuries in massive trees, dense foliage, and productive soils. In fact, these rainforests are among the world’s champions in storing carbon. In 2007, these cool-weather rainforests contained roughly 196 gigatonnes of carbon – the equivalent of more than six times the total annual carbon dioxide emissions from human activities.