The successful regeneration and management of western redcedar (Thuja plicata )and yellow-cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) trees on the Queen Charlotte Islands /Haida Gwaii has been an issue of concern for foresters and other scientists for a number of years. These two tree species comprise a significant proportion of the old-growth forests of the Island, about 30% by volume, and are important commercial timber species. Redcedar is also a keystone species for the Haida, and central to their culture. Various factors affect the successful regeneration of redcedar and yellow-cypress. It is clear that Sitka black-tailed deer, an introduced species, have a feeding preference for redcedar and yellow-cypress. As a result, there are fewer of these trees in the second-growth forests, as well as in the younger age classes of old-growth forests.
Professional foresters and forest science researchers have been aware for some time of the problem that deer pose for cedar and cypress regeneration, and for other plant communities here, but this knowledge has not been generally appreciated by a very large audience. This Cedar Symposium was conceived as a forum for further discussion about the variety of interrelated issues -economic, ecological, and cultural -associated with cedar and cypress management on the Islands.
Forest managers want to ensure that redcedar and cypress continue to be significant trees in Island forests. Both are valuable commercial timber trees. Both are well adapted to the ecosystems of the Islands, and redcedar has a particularly wide ecological amplitude, or ability to grow well under a variety of different moisture and nutrient regimes. This makes it a species of special interest and importance for foresters who plant trees expected to grow for a century or more, when confronted by the vagaries of the climate change predicted over the coming decades.
Redcedar is the "Tree of Life " for the Haida, and they need it to ensure the continuity of their culture and traditions. They need an assured supply of a range of tree sizes -smaller trees for provision of bark for baskets and weaving, and mature trees, 500 -700 years old, for monumental totems, canoes, and traditional house construction. In view of their requirements for large mature trees, the Haida are as concerned about the management of mature forests as they are about the current problems and costs of regenerating cedar after logging.
The subject of deer on the Islands is probably important enough to warrant a symposium of its own, and was dealt with in a limited manner here because of the clear relationship between deer and cedar. Introduced species have produced well-documented ecological problems and very large economic costs
The first of several deer introductions to the Islands began around 1900. There are no significant natural predators of deer here, such as wolves or cougars, and the population has grown very large, with deer now found throughout the archipelago. The severity of deer feeding on cedar and cypress seedlings makes it more difficult and expensive for timber tenure licensees to regenerate these species successfully. Deer also significantly deplete the herb and shrub plant communities of the Islands, with significant ecological consequences that are just beginning to be understood.
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Updated January 14, 2009