This is a long-term research project that supports current policy (Cariboo-Chilcotin Land-Use Plan (CCLUP) (Prov.B.C. 1995), and CCLUP - Mountain Caribou Strategy (Youds et al. 2000)) and provides an integrated approach to resource management. Mountain caribou are on the provincial ?threatened? list and in the CCLUP, they are considered a key management species. Under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) mountain caribou are designated as threatened within Southern Mountains National Ecological Area (SMNEA) and recovery planning is underway provincially through the Species at Risk Co-ordination Office (SaRCO). The CCLUP -Mountain Caribou Strategy has ?modified harvesting options? for 53,000 ha of critical caribou winter range in the upper elevations of the Engelmann spruce ? subalpine fire zone (ESSFwc3). The Quesnel Highland project was developed to test group selection silvicultural systems that retain caribou habitat (forage lichens associated with old-growth forests) while extracting timber, achieving regeneration, conserving biodiversity and understanding the effects of partial cutting on peak streamflow. This project fits well with the management recommendations proposed by Stevenson et al. (2001).
Forest practices are currently the greatest habitat management concern for mountain caribou (Mountain Caribou Technical Advisory Committee 2002). Associated with forest practices are habitat fragmentation, reduction in winter food supply, increased human access and associated disturbance, and alteration of predator-prey relationships. The recovery planning process, through SaRCO, is considering all these factors in an options report for various populations of caribou (Mountain Caribou Science Team 2006). In the Quesnel Highland planning unit three of the five options include ?modified harvesting?. Because of the ?threatened? status of the caribou nationally, convincing data regarding modified harvesting will be needed to ensure that the land continues to contribute to the annual allowable cut (AAC). It is essential to continue monitoring the research trial to either confirm success or learn how to modify the silvicultural systems to achieve success.
Caribou eat arboreal (tree-dwelling) lichens almost exclusively during the winter and logging can have a drastic effect on available lichen biomass (Stevenson 1979, 1990; Rominger 1994). Clearcutting is not compatible with maintaining mountain caribou habitat as it completely removes arboreal lichen. Lichen dispersal, establishment and growth are slow (due to required substrate and microclimate conditions) and it may take over a century before the quantity of lichen within a clearcut is comparable to that found in old-growth stands. Partial cutting through group selection systems may provide sufficient arboreal lichen through space and time. On our research trial, after 10 years, lichen has increased in the residual forest in the partially cut treatments compared to the no-harvest treatments (Waterhouse et al. 2007). This was first evident at the 10-year assessment but periodic measurements are needed to confirm this result over time. Tree fall and recruitment also contribute to the lichen loading in the stand.
The ESSF zone is biologically rich and extensive (13.3 million ha) and is currently dominated by old forests. Outside of caribou habitat, as timber harvesting progresses, via the clearcut silvicultural system, much of the forest will be managed on a 120 year rotation. The consequences to wildlife of shifting from old to younger seral forest could be significant. In contrast to clearcutting, group selection silvicultural systems are a possible way to continuously provide old forest habitat attributes required by many species (Waterhouse et al. 2004; Klenner and Sullivan 2003; Leupin et al. 2004).
To be considered a successful silvicultural system adequate regeneration of conifer species must be achieved. There has been relatively little information on regene ...
Waterhouse, Michaela J., Armleder, Harold M.; Newsome, Teresa A.; Teti, Patrick. 2009. Group selection silvicultural systems to maintain caribou habitat in high elevation forests (ESSFwc3) in central BC. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report. FIA2009MR319
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Forest, Investment, Account, (FIA), British, Columbia
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