Biodiversity

Biodiversity was among the community’s objectives as it developed the proposal for the community forest, and this was given increased emphasis by the community in 2015 when it listed “to maintain or increase biodiversity” as an objective for the community forest.

Old Forest and Wildlife Habitat

There will be no logging in significant areas of caribou habitat and old growth forest in the community forest to maintain biodiversity.

Selective timber harvest

Arguably logging will usually reduce biodiversity, but the community forest agreement requires Wells-Barkerville to harvest an average of 5,000 cubic meters of timber per year.

Given this requirement a significant start to maintaining biodiversity is selective harvest, with approximately one third of the mature trees harvested in a cut block, and the rest of the mature trees, and all of the immature trees and other plants, left behind.

When the first sale of standing timber was acquired by West Fraser the company agreed to reduce the volume of timber logged by clearcutting and to practice selective harvest to acquire the remaining volume. The timber was logged from eight clear cuts totaling 57 hectares and a “partial harvest” 30.9 hectare block.

When West Fraser agreed to a second purchase of standing timber – the trees to be cut between 2019 and 2024 – it agreed at least 50 per cent of the trees would be selectively harvested.

Selective harvest retains a far greater variety of trees, plants and animals, and ensures the forest has trees ranging from young to very old.

Inventories

Accurate and continually updated inventories of plants and animals are needed to know whether biodiversity is being maintained or increased. Inventories existing at the time the community forest was created are listed in section two of the management plan < link>, but additional inventories are needed.

Among them is an inventory of food plants, and this work was started on the southern toe of Cornish Mountain in the summer of 2020 by Devon Macdonald.

Food plant propagation

The community forest has a number of plants that are a source of food, and many others that could be. In addition to conducting an inventory of food plants, Devon Macdonald is experimenting with the cultivation of two species of mushrooms.

Birch

The cultivation of birch is under discussion. Birch would increase biodiversity, be a source for alternative wood products in the future, and could be planted to create “shade breaks”: fire breaks separating forests of flammable conifers from one another and from the communities.

Climate change

Efforts to manage and increase biodiversity must contend with a changing climate. As the climate changes some species of plants and animals in the community forest will be less viable, while species of plants and animals not currently present in the community forest may become viable there.

The mapping project completed in June 2020 by Christopher Morgan and Pamela Wright of the University of Northern BC was a first attempt to understand the impact of climate change on future populations of plant and animal in the community forest.