Ministry of Forests

Cariboo Region Research Section

A Field Guide to Forest Site Identification and Interpretation for the Cariboo Forest Region


Objectives and Scope

This guide presents site identification and interpretation information f'or forest ecosystems of the Cariboo Forest Region. Site identification is based on the biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) initially developed by V.J. Krajina and his students at the University of British Columbia and subsequently revised by the B.C'. Ministry of Forests. The objectives of the classification are:

This guide results from the recently completed provincial correlation of the BEC system. It replaces "A Field Guide for the Identification and Interpretation of Ecosystems of the Cariboo Forest Region" (Research Section, Cariboo Forest Region 1982). Correlations between classification units used in this guide and those used in the previous guide for the Cariboo Forest Region are presented in Appendix 1.

This guide has two principal goals:

to assist users in describing and identifying forest ecosystems; and

to provide management interpretations to assist users in preparing stand-level forest management prescriptions. This guide describes only forested site units. Grassland, non-forested wetland, alpine tundra, and other non-forested sites of the Cariboo Forest Region will be described separately in other guides. In addition, the ecosystem descriptions apply primarily to coniferous forests, since deciduous forests have not been sufficiently well studied to be included.

Other Sources of Information

This guide is to be used in conjunction with the map of"Biogeoclimatic Units of the Cariboo Forest Region" available from the Research Section, Cariboo Forest Region in Williams Lake. More complete descriptions of the BEC system can be found in Pojar et al ( 1987), MacKinnon et al. ( 1992), and Meidinger and Pojar ( 1991). For a more detailed discussion of ecosystem description methods, refer to Luttmerding e~ al. ( 1990). References for the identification of most of the common plants in the Cariboo Forest Region are MacKinnon et al. ( 1992) for northern pans of the Region and Parish et al. ( 1996) for southern parts of the Region. Other sources of information on silviculture systems and practices are included in Section 7.1.

Guide Contents and Limitations

This guide consists of seven principal sections plus appendices. Section 2 provides an overview of the BEC system. Section 3 outlines procedures for describing forest sites and identifying biogeoclimatic and site units. lt is basically a "how-to" section. Section 4 provides a brief overview of the environment of the Cariboo Forest Region including physiography and major climate patterns. Section 5 describes the biogeoclimatic units (zones, subzones, and variants) of the Cariboo Forest Region including their distinguishing features. Section 6 describes the forested site units of each biogeoclimatic unit for which a site classification has been completed. It includes keys to site unit identification, edatopic grids, and vegetation and environment summaries. Section 7 summarizes silviculture considerations for site units. It includes ecologically adapted tree species, principal site factors limiting forest regeneration. shrub and herbaceous vegetation potential, and a summary of principles and current experience regarding successful silviculture practices. The appendices include several tools to aid site description and identification, including guides to identification of soil moisture regime, soil nutrient regime, soil texture class, common rock types. and soil humus form.

In this guide we have synthesized the knowledge and experience gained during nearly 20 years of forest ecosystem sampling, monitoring of management practices, and research in the Cariboo Forest Region.

Some biogeoclimatic units have not been sufficiently well sampled to develop a forest site classification. These occur mostly in the Coast Mountains where there has been relatively little timber harvesting history.

No guide to ecosystems can encompass all of the complexity and diversity of forest ecosystems that occur on the landscape. Although the described site units include most of the common ecosystems found throughout the distribution of the biogeoclimatic units, users are certain to encounter sites that do not appear to 'fit" any site unit description. In these cases, a description of the site, soils. and vegetation features of the site and an understanding of the effects of these features on management options can assist in formulating an ecologically sound management prescription It is important to recognize that the intent of this guide is to provide information to help users to classify sites and develop management prescriptions.


Format of the Guide

This guide has been structured and paginated to readily allow updates of individual sections and to allow users to modify the guide to suit their specific needs. Each section or subsection has its own numbering sequence and all pages have headers on the upper left and right indicating the section topic. Each biogeoclimatic unit has the same subsection number in sections 6 and 7.


We have assumed that users of this guide have completed a BEC training course offered by a Ministry of Forests Regional Research Section, in which basic concepts and methods of ecosystem description and assessment are introduced. For information on training courses, contact the Research Manager. Cariboo Forest Region.

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