|British Columbia is experiencing the largest mountain pine beetle (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopk.) outbreak in the recorded history of North America . The current epidemic is predicted to decimate much of the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Dougl.) in the province . Responding to the rapid decline of live lodgepole pine, the government has initiated large-scale salvage operations. These operations are intended to recover the maximum value from dead timber and minimize economic loss . Consequently, the rate of harvesting will be unprecedented over the next decade. Environmental and social concerns have arisen over the rapidity of changes to the land base in such a short time period [2; 4]. By creating and maintaining appropriate stand-level biodiversity, some of this concern could be alleviated. Currently, little is known about the effects of the mountain pine beetle epidemic on biodiversity in British Columbia. Acknowledging this dearth of information, the Mountain Pine Beetle Research Strategy  identified wildlife and biodiversity as priorities, inferring the importance and urgency of closing these knowledge gaps. The Research Strategy proposed studying the effects of salvage harvesting on critical habitat for plants and animals, at both the stand and landscape scales . Furthermore, both BC First Nations and Jim Snetsinger (BC’s Chief Forester) stressed the importance of maintaining biodiversity [2; 7] and understory vegetation  when dealing with the MPB epidemic. This research will generate a better understanding of how the MPB is impacting habitat indicators associated with stand-level biodiversity by identifying natural benchmarks for a variety of forest types. Further, by studying the effectiveness of different management strategies (i.e., different licensee techniques) in creating and maintaining indicators of stand-level biodiversity, forest managers will immediately be able to mitigate the ecological loss generated by large-scale MPB harvesting operations. By conducting a comparison between pre and post-harvest ecological characteristics for specific cutblocks, this project will also inform the Forest and Range Evaluation Program (FREP) by putting post-harvest ecological data into its proper context. Certain stand structural attributes such as standing dead trees (snags), coarse woody debris, and large live trees are valuable habitat attributes for wildlife that are often found in patches where a large natural disturbance, such as a wildfire, has occurred. Any forest harvesting that attempts to emulate natural disturbance patterns should contain mature forest reserves . Retention areas are left on the landscape to increase the structural diversity of the forest, thus providing a mixture of forest ages as the stand regenerates. This mixture of forest characteristics provides essential habitat for wildlife, which is generally absent in harvest treatments without retention . These structurally diverse stands also help ensure that a variety of organisms will remain in the area after it has been disturbed. Retention areas are essential for conserving biodiversity in harvested areas. However, detailed knowledge on the quantity and quality of stand characteristics in retention areas is required for creating and maintaining appropriate stand-level biodiversity. Currently this information is lacking in many areas  which prevents strategies from being effectively evaluated. This project seeks to ascertain the effectiveness of different management strategies in maintaining stand-level biodiversity on large-scale mountain pine beetle cutblocks in the Arrow Boundary Forest District. Currently, Arrow is at an outbreak stage of infestation, while Boundary is in an incipient stage . Licensees are now harvesting larger cutblocks in an attempt to recover the greatest value from beetle-infested timber. While the Northern Interior might be considered by some as a more appropriate study, this project study was initiated in the Southern Interior in direct response to concerns raised by the Ministry of Forests and Range district office in Castlegar over the impacts of salvage logging on stand-level biodiversity in the area. Consequently, Phase I of this project (funded by the BC Forest and Range Evaluation Program (FREP)), was initiated and several large-scale MPB treatment areas were sampled prior to harvest operations in an attempt to identify appropriate target and configurations of stand-level structures in order to maintain biodiversity. In Phase II of the project (the subject of this proposal), a post-harvest monitoring scheme will be employed on cutblocks that were sampled for stand-level biodiversity prior to harvesting in Phase I of this project. A post-harvest assessment of the same cutblocks will build on the foundation of pre-harvest stand-level data collected and allow direct comparisons to produce natural benchmarks for the district and surrounding forest areas. Several licensees will be included in the analysis; because they have disparate approaches in forest harvesting and salvage operations, this will facilitate effectiveness evaluations for different management strategies in multiple Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) zones. |
References: 1. Arrow Boundary Forest District. 2006. Arrow Boundary guidelines for addressing Mountain Pine Beetle. Ministry of Forests, Castlegar, B.C. 2. BC First Nations Mountain Pine Beetle Interim Working Group. 2005. B.C. First Nations Mountain Pine Beetle Action Plan. 2005. BC First Nations Leadership Council. 3. British Columbia Ministry of Forests. 2004. Mountain pine beetle in BC. Brochure. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C. 4. British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range. 2005. Mountain pine beetle stewardship research strategy. B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, Research Branch, Victoria, B.C. URL: www.for.gov.bc.ca/hre 5. Delong, S.C. 2002. Using nature’s template to best advantage in the Canadian boreal forest. Silva Fennica 36(1):401-408. 6. Eng, M. 2004. Forest Stewardship in the context of large-scale salvage operations: An interpretation paper. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Research Branch, Victoria, B.C. Technical Report 019. 7. Snetsinger, J. 2005. Guidance on landscape and stand level structural retention in large-scale mountain pine beetle salvage operations. B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, Victoria, B.C. 8. Sullivan, T.P., Sullivan, D.S., and P.M.F. Lindgren. 2001. Influence of variable retention harvests on forest ecosystems. I. Diversity of stand structure. Journal of Applied Ecology 38:1221-1233. 9. Thompson, R., Densmore, N., and Bradford, P. 2005. Stand-level biodiversity monitoring – an evolving approach. FRPA Resource Evaluation Program. B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, B.C. Ministry of Environment, and B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Victoria, B.C.