Research Branch

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Woody debris in the forests of British Columbia: a review of the literature and current research

Author(s) or contact(s): C.L. Caza
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Ecosystems
Series: Land Management Report
Other details:  Published 1993. Hardcopy is available.


Forest managers in the northwestern United States are currently concerned about the retention of adequate amounts of coarse woody debris (CWD) on sites after harvesting. This concern has stimulated interest in the role of CWD in British Columbia's forests.

Some information is available on CWD quantities in forests of the northwestern United States, and research on the ecological significance of woody debris is under way in the region. In comparison, it is not clear what information exists on quantities of woody debris in the forests of British Columbia, or what information is available to assist the evaluation of management strategies for woody debris in the province. We therefore undertook this project with several objectives: to review the published literature on the ecology of woody debris; to determine what data are available on amounts of woody debris in British Columbia forests; to identify proposed or ongoing research on woody debris within the Ministry of Forests; and to discuss the research needed to fill the gaps in our qualitative and quantitative understanding of the role of woody debris in British Columbia forests. An annotated bibliography with abstracts was also prepared as part of the final report and is included as Appendix 3 in this report. Information was gathered from computerized reference collections, review articles, and discussions with university researchers and government and industry personnel in British Columbia and the United States.

A literature review on the ecology of woody debris is presented in Section 2. General information on the structural and functional characteristics of woody debris (primarily CWD) is easily obtained from the literature, but publications of quantitative studies and detailed field studies are scarce. Most of our knowledge comes from forests in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana. There is also some data from single studies in other regions (e.g., Alaska and Alberta). Few data have been collected in British Columbia, and what little information is available has come from fire and wildlife studies. We found no published work of field studies that focused on woody debris in forests in the province.

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Updated November 26, 2008