Carmanah Rain Forest Canopy Research Station First Of Its Kind

Collecting moss in the Rain Forest Canopy Research Centre, Credit: Bob Herger

A common misconception is that when we cut old growth forests all we are taking is the trees. But when we clear cut forests we are decimating entire ecosystems. Old growth trees and forests provide habitat for thousands of species. Kill the trees and you kill most of the other species, too.

Until 1992 there had not been any systematic study of the northern temperate rain forest canopy - we had no idea of the diversity we were destroying. Then the Western Canada Wilderness Committee set up the first ever rain forest canopy research station in a cluster of 5 Sitka spruce over 60 m tall in the then threatened Carmanah Valley.

Volunteers built rope climbing systems to scale the great heights of the old trees. A variety of platforms at different spots up the trunks were set in place, and rope bridges were strung to connect them all together.

Since then researchers have collected over 3 million insects in this extensive study, and of the species that have been identified, 300 were new to science. This forest contains more biomass per square meter than any other forest on earth. Its richness is reflected in the research that has been done here.

It is evident that many living things require ancient forests that have not been disturbed for hundreds of years. Such a forest has mixed aged trees ranging from seedlings to massive old growth. Standing dead wood, and fallen trees on the ground provide habitat and nutrients for this web of life. But can't this delicate web be maintained in second growth forests that grow after the original forest is gone?

No. Second growth forests do not provide the structure and conditions old growth reliant species require. The Wilderness Committee says,
"The primary problem is that second-growth tree plantations and old-growth forests are very different. Unfortunately, the goal of B.C.’s forest management system is to replace our wild forests with tree farms that are clear cut after 40 to 120 years, long before they acquire old-growth features. Only by slowing down the excessive rate of cut and establishing large protected areas will we ensure that we always have ecologically viable tracts of ancient forests on Vancouver Island."
Some of the creatures that require the massive trees that grow in forests older than two or three hundred years are: spotted owls, salamanders, marbeled murrelets, salmon, bald eagles, many species of insects and spiders, as well as thousands of life forms not yet studied.

The Carmanah Valley Rain Forest Canopy Research Station is providing us with a glimpse into the deep, dark, and unknown forest. This ground-breaking research is showing us that eliminating most of Vancouver Island's forests and replacing them with even-aged tree plantations spells doom for the survival of many species.

No doubt we have already caused the extinction of many creatures that we will never know about. Let's save what is left. Say, "NO" to old growth logging in British Columbia, and around the world. We must ensure that we always have ecologically intact areas of ancient forests for everything that is dependent upon them... including us.

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