Fish-Forestry Interaction Research homepage

Fish-Forestry Interaction Research

An integrated program designed to better understand watershed processes that influence aquatic ecosystems


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Issues arising from the interaction between fish and forest resource values have been a major concern to managers and scientists for over 35 years in British Columbia. To date, six major studies have been carried out in British Columbia to document fish-forestry interactions (Carnation Creek, Queen Charlotte Islands, Slim-Tumuch, Stuart-Takla, Prince George Small Streams Project, and the Bowron River Watershed comparative survey), and this website is intended to provide an overview of the Fish-Forestry Interaction Programs (FFIPs) conducted in this province since 1970. Results of these projects fall into one or more of three broad, interrelated categories of forestry-related effects on fish and aquatic habitats: physical habitat-structure alterations, water temperature-related shifts, and trophic responses. The individual projects are summarized here, and links to more detailed descriptions are provided. Although these individual projects are presented separately, their overall influence, taken together, is greater than the sum of the parts.

 

 

The FFIP Carnation Creek Project on the west coast of British Columbia was initiated in 1970 and continues to this day. It is an important project, the results of which have made major contributions to the stream and watershed sections of the British Columbia Coastal Fisheries/Forestry Guidelines and the British Columbia Forest Practices Code that were implemented in the 1980s and 1990s. Carnation Creek uses a case-study design (i.e., response variables were monitored before and after streamside logging operations), and was initiated by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Forest Service in co-operation with MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. and the BC Forest Service. The latter partner became the primary co-ordinator of the project when the federal agencies shifted their focus to interior areas in the 1990s. 

Around the same time that the Carnation Creek Project was being undertaken on the coast, another fish-forestry project was started in the interior (north-central) region of British Columbia. The Slim-Tumuch Project east of Prince George was initiated by the provincial Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Environment and the DFO. This project was relatively short in duration (1971–1975) and differed from Carnation Creek in that it was based on a synoptic (comparative) survey (i.e., logged streams were compared to nearby forested streams, meaning that pre-logging data were not available). The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of logging on water quality and on fish populations and their in-stream habitat in an interior region of British Columbia, and consequently to provide an opportunity to compare these effects to the results of coastal fish-forestry projects. 

In the late 1970s, fish-forestry interaction issues were becoming increasingly tense in steep terrain where hillslope stability was a problem. These issues were initially addressed on the Queen Charlotte Islands (QCI), starting in 1978. The QCI Project was based on a synoptic design that included over 30 watersheds with different logging histories. The main advantage of this design is that several different geographic zones can be considered instead of just a single area (as is the case in studies such as Carnation Creek). Major conclusions were derived concerning managing landslide-prone terrain, the episodic nature of natural disturbance events, and, most importantly, the processes that operate at a watershed scale that link upslope/upstream and downslope/downstream areas. 

When the DFO ceased to participate in the Carnation Creek Project they turned their scientific fish-forestry attention to three small streams in the headwaters of the Fraser River. The Stuart-Takla Project began in 1991 and focussed on issues important to the northern interior. Three watersheds were intensively monitored for 10 years before logging was planned for two of the watersheds, leaving the third as an experimental control. This project was terminated in 2001 due to an inability to reconcile logging plans and First Nations rights conflicts. There is interest in returning to these sites if logging does proceed.  

Although the above studies provided much-needed data on the impacts of streamside timber harvesting on streams and their fish populations, concerns continued to be raised province-wide about the size and effectiveness of riparian buffers in protecting fish habitat, particularly along small streams (class S4 streams, which are less than 1.5 m wide). A novel approach was developed and implemented experimentally to form the core of the Prince George Small Streams Project in the Prince George Forest District. This 5-year project (2002-2006) tested whether the B.C. Ministry of Forests district policy (which required a minimum retention of 10–12 overstorey trees per 100 m of stream length and 50–75% of natural shade levels after harvesting) was effective in supporting the ecological attributes necessary for healthy fish habitat in S4 streams.

More recently, in 2007 the Bowron River Watershed Study was initiated to identify forest management activities that place streams and their riparian areas at risk, as well as to identify how they recover following extensive salvage harvesting. In the early 1970s a spruce bark beetle outbreak occurred in the Bowron River watershed east of Prince George, and large-scale timber salvage-harvesting operations were undertaken to control the spread of the beetle and to recover economic value from infested timber before it burned or decayed. The Bowron River Watershed Study involved monitoring 35 streams that had undergone this type of large-scale logging within their watersheds (including logging within riparian zones) to determine present levels of stream ecologic function more than 25 years after harvesting. This project is also being used to forecast the potential longer-term impacts of today's mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation and the consequent large-scale salvage operations currently being conducted, and to propose best-management practices to protect the ecological integrity of small streams in MPB-infested areas.

Acknowledgements:

Concept and content for the MFR-FFIP web pages were developed by Dan Hogan, Dave Maloney, John Rex, Eric Mellina, and Peter Tschaplinski. Webpage design and coordination of quarterly updates are conducted by the respective FFIP researchers (see contacts).


Please direct questions regarding webpage to For.Prodres@gov.bc.ca

Updated February 2009