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Report: Tunkwa Provincial Park Vegetation Management Plan

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Vegetation management plan for Tunkwa provincial park in light of current and past mountain pine beetle and fire outbreaks.

Author:  Adrian de Groot

Date Published:  Feb 2008

Report ID:  12370

Audience:  Government and Public

The vegetation of Tunkwa Provincial Park has changed greatly from past natural and human-caused disturbances. This includes the current and past mountain pine beetle outbreaks, past fire resulting from past mountain pine beetle outbreaks, extensive harvesting of Douglas-fir forests in the park, grazing by cattle, and infrastructure developments. Park managers need direction for managing the vegetation of the park in a post-mountain pine beetle epidemic landscape. The objectives of this study were: -To provide a description of potential changes to forest structure and composition and the vegetation community over time, -To provide a description of changes to the properties of large and small fuels for fires over time, and -To describe the potential benefits and negative impacts of the different management options Tunkwa Park is a heavily used park with large campgrounds and a highly valued recreational fishery in Tunkwa and Leighton lakes. Backcountry trails are used by ATV's, horseback riding, hiking, cycling and hunting. Cattle grazing has been occurring in the park since the mid-1800s, and continues today with an extensive system of fences assisting grazing management. The park also has a long and important history of cultural use by local First Nations peoples though details of this usage are not documented. A cultural heritage assessment is needed to address this deficiency. The natural values of the park include high elevation grasslands, and Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine dominated forests, with smaller areas of spruce forest, numerous small wetlands and small sagebrush areas. There is a long history of disturbance in the park from wildfire, previous mountain pine beetle outbreaks, forest harvesting, linear developments and cattle grazing. Many of these disturbances were clearly visible on historical and recent airphotos of the park, which were compared to determine what changes had occurred to the park vegetation over a 56 year time period. These disturbances have shaped and changed the vegetation of the park, especially by producing forests with a young age structure. Fire frequency has likely declined since the arrival of Europeans, further changing the structure and age of the forests, by allowing infilling of previously open forests. Some encroachment of grasslands has occurred, but this has not been extensive. Numerous wildlife species use the park including mule deer, moose, black bear, cougar, lynx, bobcat, and numerous bird species. There is a colony of yellow-bellied marmots near Bluff Lake. The lakes and wetlands support large numbers of a wide variety of waterfowl, both for nesting and during migration. Management direction for the park recognizes the importance of natural processes, including fire, and sees prescribed fire as an acceptable management tool. Tree removal is also a management option, but to be consistent with BC Parks policy needs to be done in conjunction with the restoration of natural processes such as fire. There will be widespread changes to the ecosystems and wildlife of the park due to the MPB epidemic; however, these effects cannot be counteracted by prescribed fire or mechanical treatments. These management actions would create disturbances that would be additive to the current disturbance. The make up of future forests in the park will depend on regeneration patterns following the MPB epidemic and the harvesting that occurred in the Douglas-fir stands. At current regeneration densities, over 50% of the MPB killed forests will have >500 stems per hectare, with lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir dominating these stands. The Douglas-fir stands are much more densely stocked and are dominated by young Douglas-fir trees with Interior spruce the main secondary species.

Report Type
  Terrestrial Information
  Region - Thompson-Nicola

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