Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y093014

    Evaluating effectiveness of forest management practices at sustaining biological diversity in northeastern British Columbia.
 
Project lead: Bunnell, Fred (University of British Columbia)
Contributing Authors: Bunnell, Fred L.; Kremsater, Laurie L.; Vernier, Pierre R.; Moy, Arnold
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Description:
The major research question is: How can we efficiently evaluate coarse-filter approaches to sustaining biodiversity in managed forests? Forestry at northern latitudes commonly is planned and practiced over large areas and long time periods. Within British Columbia, the forest composition and the practices applied tend to be simpler than those practiced farther south or on the coast. Nonetheless, the species richness of boreal forests is still high and sustaining biodiversity within managed forests remains challenging. The work complements that of FSP Y092015 which focuses on fine-filter, within-stand thresholds, including the same area.

This project focuses on: 1) identifying species that likely will be sustained by current management practices on the Dawson Creek Timber Supply Area (TSA) with focus on Tree Farm License 48 and incremental extension to the Fort St. John and Fort Nelson TSAs, 2) identifying efficient changes to practices that would sustain native species richness, and 3) describing new operating procedures for species with specialized needs that are unlikely to be sustained by existing coarse-filter approaches. Terrestrial vertebrates including amphibians receive greatest emphasis. Current evaluation indicates that 275 vertebrate species occur in the primary study area (an additional 14 occur in the Fort Nelson TSA). Other elements of biodiversity are being added as data permit – vascular plants, damsel and dragonflies, butterflies, and bryophytes. That is possible because within the proponent’s grant (FSP Y062023; “Refining Conservation Priorities in British Columbia”), 175 species at risk and potentially at risk within the area were evaluated, so particular specialized habitats are known. That database, coupled with ecosystem representation analysis, ensures that a major spectrum of biodiversity will be evaluated and results will not be biased towards a few well-known species.

Management actions and associated targets considered to be part of the coarse filter approach include:
1) Non-harvestable landbase by Biogeoclimatic Ecological Classification (BEC) unit.
2) Rare ecosystem groups as identified by representation analysis.
3) Riparian reserves netted out for Timber Supply Review based on actual practices.
4) Wildlife Habitat Areas and Ungulate Winter Ranges.
5) Late-seral forest targets as related to natural disturbance units and distributed over BEC units.
6) Shrubs/early forest targets by Landscape Unit over time.
7) Broad forest types (see details below).
8) Practices to maintain specified levels of particular habitat elements (e.g., cavity sites, downed wood).
9) Patch size distribution and connectivity.

Eight elements of the coarse filter can be credibly addressed within the project across a range of taxonomic groups. Patch size distribution can be partially addressed for vertebrates, but will rely on literature for other groups. Six vertebrate species appear potentially sensitive to patch size and connectivity. Our goal is to make analyses no more complex than necessary (the company will ultimately perform these themselves) and keep practices as simple as necessary. Vertebrates are divided into 6 groups: 1) generalists (species that inhabit many habitat types), 2) species that can be statistically assigned broad forest types (preliminary analysis suggests that these can be as simple as: conifer, mixed wood-conifer leading, mixed wood-deciduous leading and deciduous stands across 3 broad age classes), 3) species with strong dependencies on particular habitat elements (snags, shrubs), 4) species restricted to specialized and highly localized habitats (for which standard operating procedures can be developed), 5) species for which patch size and connectivity are significant, and 6) species within the DFA but not in forested habitats (for completeness). Non-vertebrate organisms will be assigned to these groups as possible.

The industrial partner maintains an up-to-date GIS database. The groups represent a simple way to assess coarse filter effects and permit evaluation for the entire group in some instances. For groups 1 and 2, simple tabular summaries of the database will be sufficient to assess sustainability. Simple temporal projections of specific habitat elements may be necessary to credibly assess group 3. Group 4 will be addressed by refining or creating new standard operating procedures. Explicit spatial modeling is required only for group 5, the smallest group. Fieldwork focuses on the richest vertebrate group (birds), but includes observations on amphibians to assist evaluation of the contribution of wetlands. The bird fauna encompasses a broad range of habitat niches and is sufficiently mobile to clearly express habitat preference. We will assess effectiveness by the proportion of species (for which data exist) that are likely to be sustained. Observations on wetlands assist their the incorporation into the coarse filter evaluation, along with the various species they support (including dragonflies, damselflies and vascular plants)

Vertebrates present are well known for TFL 48 because of past work in the area (SFM and FSP grants to the proponent or by Canadian Forest Products). Preliminary work in the Fort St. John TSA provided some surprises (SARA-listed species more common than anticipated; specialized, localized habitat use shifting with forest type). The Fort Nelson area is poorly known (particularly for SARA-listed species). To encompass the entire range of forest types present over the northern Interior (about 18 million ha) the project requires at least 3 years. The 4 objectives for 2007/08 will be largely met for TFL 48 and initiated broadly for the Fort St. John TSA (though GIS data are more limiting). A better inventory of species present is needed for the large Fort Nelson TSA. Work to date has stimulated additional sampling to reduce uncertainties exposed in current analyses (e.g., potential consequences of vegetation management on shrubs, grasses, herbs and vertebrate species associated with them). We designed the work jointly with the industrial partner but it was funding outside the proposal.

This 3nd year we have four major objectives. First, extend refinement of standard operating procedures to Fort St. John and Fort Nelson TSAs and address their role relative to non-vertebrate groups. Second, continue incorporation non-vertebrate groups as possible and assess apparent utility of coarse filter approaches for fish. The role of wetlands in supporting vertebrates, vascular plants, Odonates and some bryophytes will be emphasized. Third, provide practical guidelines for a credible approach to monitoring the effectiveness of coarse-filter approaches to sustaining biodiversity. The guidelines will be presented as a series of steps and use examples, primarily from TFL 48. Fourth, develop a ‘conservation framework’ that extends over about 18 million ha of northeastern BC. Extension efforts will continue throughout.
Related projects:  FSP_Y071014FSP_Y082014

    Deliverables:

Final Report (0.1Mb)
Coarse filter _Understory (0.5Mb)
Coarse filter_deadwood (1.4Mb)
Coarse filter_hardwoods (0.4Mb)
Conservation framework (1.6Mb)
Guidelines for coarse filter assessment (5.6Mb)
Final Appendix (0.1Mb)
Progress Report (49Kb)
Summary assessment (0.7Mb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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