Forest Investment Account

Abstract of TERP Project #4-17

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Forest canopy changes from 1947 to 1996 in the Lower Similkameen, British Columbia

Author(s): Gyug, Les W.
Imprint: Westbank, B.C. Okanagan Wildlife Consulting, 2002
Subject: Restoration Ecology, British Columbia, Grassland ecology, Forest Investment Account (FIA)
Series: Terrestrial Ecosystem Restoration Program Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program


This study examined the extent to which grasslands and open tree parklands have been invaded by conifers in the Lower Similkameen Indian Band Area of Interest. This was a first step toward developing a restoration plan to address the quantity and quality of grasslands, including the recovery of natural plant communities in the area of interest. The objectives for this phase of the project included:
1. determine the extent of native grasslands and open forests from old aerial photographs (1938 and 1947),
2. compare these to current forest and grassland conditions on 1996 aerial photographs and using estimates of forest canopy closure from forest cover mapping,
3. determine the location, type and extent of forest encroachment occurring in the area of interest, and
4. make recommendations for potential actions to mitigate the effects of forest encroachment.
The aerial photo analysis found major changes in the tree canopy closure from 1947 to 1996 due to the exclusion of fire. 21% of the project area (20,694 hectares) experienced increases in canopy closure of previously open or semi-open habitats. A further 11% of the area (10,996 hectares) experienced an increase in cover due to conifer regeneration on sites that had been burned in the 30 years prior to 1947. The forest stand structure of the area of interest has significantly changed in the 50 years from 1947 to 1996. The biggest changes are: the conversion of open forests to closed forests at all elevations, the encroachment of conifers onto open grassland and other open habitats, and the current lack of early seral habitats after large canopy destroying wildfires that previously dominated the mid and higher elevations (the MS and ESSF biogeoclimatic zones). Preliminary recommendations were made based on these findings, including the need to develop a strategy for the restoration and/or maintenance of ecosystem components. It is also recommended that current prescribed burning done by agencies be encouraged to happen on a larger scale.
The report is available from the Ministry library: Gyug, L.W. & G.F. Martens. 2002. Forest Canopy Changes from 1947 to 1996 in the Lower Similkameen, British Columbia.
Prepared for the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, by Okanagan Wildlife Consulting, Westbank BC, and Columbia Environmental Consulting, Penticton, BC.
Project Name: Grassland Restoration within the Similkameen River Area, #4-17
Project Proponent: Lower Similkameen Indian Band
Key Words: grassland restoration, historic forest cover, restoration plan, grassland mapping

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Updated July 25, 2006 

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