In the Omineca region of BC, Government has implemented ungulate winter range (UWR) legislation to manage low-elevation pine-lichen woodlands on more than 190,000 ha of forests used by woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). Woodland caribou are: a species at risk under the Forest and Range Practices Act in BC, are commonly considered to be a leading indicator of biodiversity and ecosystem health (e.g., see ENGO programs such as Caribou Nation, Grey Ghosts, and Staring at Extinction), and depend on UWRs with abundant terrestrial lichens for their over-winter survival. Legally designated UWR in the Omineca was stratified into units of terrestrial lichen habitat within which management direction is focused on the maintenance of forage. It was assumed that forage could be maintained using a 2-pass, 140-year rotation of forests where disturbance from logging would restart the ecological succession of terrestrial forage lichens (Province of BC 2005). Development of management direction was, at the time, limited in ecological scope and taken from resource conditions prior to attack by the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae; MPB). After 3 years, implementation of UWR policy in the region is now considered to have been impeded by 2 fundamental assumptions: 1) all sites with terrestrial lichen follow the same ecological succession trajectory and 2) pine-lichen woodlands have sufficient economic viability to attract industrial development. In a recent workshop (Whittaker and Wiensczyk 2007), domain experts from around BC acknowledged considerable variation in succession trajectories of lichen-plant associations both within and between 3 broad regions of the province; the Chilcotin, the Entiako, and the Omineca. Current management direction for UWRs in the Omineca does not take this ecological variation into consideration. Discussion at this workshop also focused on the fact that MPB attack is replete in these regions and the effect of MPB-killed timber on UWR value is still unclear. For example, in the Omineca, uncertainties such as shelf life of MPB-attacked pine, current economic factors in the industry, and policy constraints will likely lead to avoidance of UWRs by licensees; hence, largely due to the MPB, the tools assumed to manage UWRs may not be as available as initially expected.
Active management of UWRs is crucial to the long-term supply of habitat for caribou. Lack of management was predicted to lead to mid-term shortages in the supply of UWR (McNay et al. 2006; Sulyma 2001). We seek to undertake research that synthesizes several aspects of UWR ecology building new understanding of relationships among site factors, terrestrial lichen abundance, MPB-killed timber, and snowpack development. With this new knowledge, a second phase of research is focused on the relationships between fire and lichens to test management for regenerating terrestrial forage lichens. Outcomes are expected to improve local UWR management and aid the persistence of caribou populations by: a) distinguishing UWRs that require active management from those that do not; b) specifying management options for sites requiring active disturbance; c) improving the understanding of regional differences in UWR ecology; and d) improving the understanding of the likely response of caribou to MPB-attacked range.
The ecology of pine-lichen woodlands can be summarized as a sere which develops to a zonal plant community with lichens being replaced by either Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or feather moss (Coxson and Marsh 2001; Johnson 1981; Morneau and Payette 1988; Pharo and Vitt 2000; Rowe 1984; Sulyma and Coxson 2001; Williston et al. 2006). However, this generalization is too simplistic (Ahti 1977) to guide management of UWRs for caribou in northern BC. In the Chilcotin lichen ecology is driven by climate; in the Omineca lichen presence it is a function of site factors; and in the Entiako lichen ecology is driven by both climate and site f ...
Sulyma, Randy, Wildlife Infometrics Inc.; McNay, R. Scott; Haughian, Sean R.. 2009. Identifying factors affecting the succession of terrestrial lichen communities in the Omineca Region of north-central British Columbia. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Forest, Investment, Account, (FIA), British, Columbia
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