By Nelson Bennett
As the northern hemisphere experiences earlier, hotter, drier summers and heavier precipitation in the winters, due to global warming, natural selection should eventually result in trees naturally adapting to changing climatic conditions.
Tree varieties that thrive in warmer, drier southern parts of the province, or on lower slopes, are likely to gradually shift further north and further up mountain slopes.
Scientists and foresters in B.C. are already beginning to give them a gentle nudge through assisted migration – one of the topics this morning at the University of British Columbia’s ongoing three-day Commonwealth Forestry Conference.
Using a variety of scientific tools and experiments, like genomics and provenance trials, scientists have already been able to identify which tree varieties have naturally evolved certain traits, like cold hardiness, disease resistance and drought tolerance, in different geographic regions.
Climate data can be matched with tree phenotype data to identify which trees will be best suited to climate conditions in the coming decades. Genomics is an additional tool that helps scientists identify key genetic characteristics.
These tools are used to develop seed lots that foresters can use to replant trees in a given area that are the same species, but different varieties that have traits that make them more suitable to a climate that is changing rapidly.
Interior varieties of Douglas fir, for example, are more cold hardy than coastal varieties. And Sitka spruce from California grow longer and bigger than ones that grow in Alaska. They are the same species of tree, but are different varieties that have naturally adapted to their particular environments.
Scientists and foresters are already using these tools to identify which varieties might fare better in certain areas, and use them in what is called “assisted migration” using a climate-based seed transfer program.
To date, the climate based seed transfer program in B.C. has been optional, but will become mandatory next year, said Sally Aitken, a forestry scientist at UBC’s department of forest and conservation science.
By John Tonin
Yukon forests remain healthy according to the 2020 Yukon Forest Health Report, however, there are areas that foresters will be monitoring, said Rob Legare.
The Yukon Forest Health Monitoring Strategy focuses on the 10 forest health agents of greatest concern. The Yukon is divided into five forest health zones.
Each year since 2009, researchers have completed aerial surveys of one of the five zones. But, because of COVID-19, Legare said the aerial study was unable to happen in 2020. Instead, the information provided was an “anecdotal judgement” of what has been known to be occurring.
In 2021 foresters will be back in the air doing aerial monitoring in Zone 3, or the Dawson region.
Aerial surveys will be done in Zone 3 because of spruce budworm. In 2019 and 2020, residents of Mayo reported light defoliation on the tops of spruce trees in the Stewart Crossing area on Ferry Hill.
“When you see it (spruce budworm) in one area, it is very likely that it is in another area,” said Legare.
High budworm populations can result in defoliation ranging from light damage to growing tips to complete tree defoliation, reads the report.
Legare said their forester counterparts in the Northwest Territories have also been reporting budworm on the Yukon side of the border.
“They see it in the Yukon, they are seeing it in the Peel,” said Legare. “We don’t normally fly the Peel Watershed but we are including the Peel so we can start mapping spruce budworm because Northwest Territories’ forest health personnel are seeing it there.”
In the Shallow Bay area, there is “quite a bit of windthrow” said Legare. Windthrow refers to trees uprooted by wind.
“When there is windthrow of conifers that becomes available hosts for bark beetles,” said Legare. “The beetle likes trees that are stressed.
“What the risk is the large amount of windthrow could attract the beetle and populations can build up. We are monitoring those areas right now and doing some removal of host materials.”
Legare said there will be more information on the windthrow situation in the 2021 Forest Health Report.
Perhaps the largest area of concern still remains the territory’s aspen populations.
“The real extent of disturbance in the North is the aspen decline,” said Legare. “People up there have been noticing that the aspen just haven’t looked that healthy.”
Legare said the aspen decline could be attributed to climate change because it’s something that’s occurred in the last 20 years. Climate change can lead to changes in pest distribution, severity and frequency which contributes to aspen decline.
There are two species affecting the aspen decline, the large aspen tortrix and the aspen serpentine leafminer.
Outbreaks of large aspen tortrix have occurred in several places throughout the Yukon including Teslin Lake, Braeburn, Haines Junction, Pelly and Champagne. The tortrix eats the aspen leaves.
The leafminer pest occurs throughout the Yukon range of trembling aspen and also defoliates balsam poplar. The leafminer causes the aspen leaves to turn a milky white.
Although there are some areas of concern, Legare said when the aerial surveys are conducted foresters usually just see rows upon rows of beautiful, healthy trees and rivers.
An herbicide widely used in agriculture, forestry and other applications can cause deleterious effects on the reproductive health of a common perennial plant found in forests in British Columbia, Canada. Researchers reported in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science that glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) deformed various reproductive parts on prickly rose (Rosa acicularis) a year after the chemicals were first applied in both field sites and experimental plots.
The study is one of the first to look at the effects of GBH on the reproductive morphology of a prevalent perennial plant in a commercial forestry operation. The herbicide is commonly used to control plants that could compete with conifers that are grown to be harvested in areas known as ‘cutblocks’. Glyphosate has been used since the 1970s but has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over concerns about carcinogenic effects on human health.
Investigators from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) collected and analyzed samples of prickly rose reproductive parts from three cutblocks, as well as from greenhouse-grown wild plants, and compared them against untreated plants from similar sources.
The results were striking: Pollen viability of plants treated with glyphosate dropped by an average of 66% compared to the controls a year after the initial application. More than 30% of anthers, the part of the stamen that contains the pollen, failed to split open (a process known as dehiscence), condemning these flowers to functional infertility. In addition, researchers found traces of GBH on plant flowers two full years after the herbicide was first sprayed.
By Brandon Barrett
Herb Hammond doesn’t quite fit the picture you probably have in mind of the typical forester.
A Dalai-Lama-quoting policy wonk, author and ecologist with 40 years experience in the industry, Hammond belies the clichéd image of forester as grizzled lumberman decked out in plaid.
But Hammond also defies the usual notion of forester in another significant way: He fervently believes B.C.’s forest management framework needs a complete overhaul—and urgently.
“Forestry causes the largest losses of biological diversity across this province, indeed virtually everywhere that it’s practised. It’s the primary cause of water degradation. It’s a major contributor to floods and droughts, and believe it or not, in B.C., it’s less than two-and-a-half per cent of the gross domestic product. That shows you the power of assumptions of convenience about what’s driving our economy. Certainly it’s not forestry,” he said. “Either we’re going to change this or we’re going to continue to down a path where Earth will change us.”
Hammond was the keynote speaker at an in-depth forestry webinar co-hosted last month by the Whistler Naturalists and the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, where he picked apart B.C.’s current forestry system, and laid out his vision for a new way of managing the province’s most vital asset that puts ecological integrity over industry profitability.
One of the most common notions put forth by the timber lobby is that old-growth forest, typically defined in B.C. as trees over the age of 250 on the coast, and 140 in the Interior, as a renewable resource. Not so, says local forest ecologist and Whistler Naturalists co-founder Bob Brett.
“Logging removes old forest from the landscape, and I think for all intents and purposes, we can say forever,” he relayed. “If you take out a forest that’s 300, 500, over 1,000 years old and then plant it like it has been planted at the higher elevations up in the Soo Valley, it will never in reasonable terms recover to being the old-growth forest it used to be. It’s going to be simpler, it’s going to have fewer species that require this old-forest habitat, and it will have fewer underground fungal connections. There are many reasons why it will never be the same forest again.”
While he acknowledges the legislation is by no means perfect. Hammond pointed to several landmark acts adopted south of the border as a potential example for B.C. to follow if we want to transform how forests are managed here.
In short, legislation like the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the National and Environmental Policy Act, which mandates ecological assessments “right down to individual cut blocks,” Hammond said, and the National Forest Management Act, which sets out clear standards for timber harvesting, as essential tools for the American public to keep industry accountable.
“I don’t think for a minute that forestry is perfect in the U.S.; trust me. But this provides a framework for accountability and communication,” he said.“We need to change the tenure system. What’s the rational for that? That public land was given to corporations because it was viewed by the government of the day to provide social benefits, and it was given and done quickly,” Hammond stressed. “We need to now quickly take back that public forest based on ecological and social needs.
“We better deploy our parachute or we’re not going to like how we land. As people, we need to reassume responsibility for the forest around us in socially and culturally responsible ways, based on ecosystem protection.”
By Chad Pawson
In what it’s calling a new approach to forest management in B.C., the province says it will protect 353,000 hectares of forest in nine old-growth areas throughout the province from logging.
The promise comes as the Ministry of Forests released a new report entitled A New Future for Old Forests, meant to guide an overhaul of forestry rules.
It’s based on the work of two foresters who travelled the province for months hearing about how B.C.’s massive, old-growth trees should be protected. The term old-growth in B.C. means trees that are generally 250 years or older on the coast and 140 years or older in the Interior.
“For many years, there has been a patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province, and this has caused a loss of biodiversity. We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers,” said Doug Donaldson, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development in a news release.
Donaldson said 23 per cent of the forested land base in B.C., some 13.2 million hectares, is made up of old-growth forest.
A majority of the hectares temporarily protected from logging announced on Friday are in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, an area known for its large trees, biodiversity and confrontations over development.
NORTH BAY — The Ontario government released Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy, the province’s plan to create jobs and encourage economic growth in the forest industry. The strategy will support the Indigenous, northern and rural communities that depend on the sector, while ensuring the province’s forests stay healthy for generations to come. The announcement was made today by John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“Our government has developed a strategy that will help create more good-paying jobs for Ontarians and provide greater opportunity in communities that depend on the forestry sector,” said Minister Yakabuski. “At the same time, we are taking steps to protect our forests. Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and are continuously reviewed and improved to ensure the long-term health of our forests while providing social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone across the province.”
The fundamental pillar of the strategy is the promotion of stewardship and sustainability, recognizing the importance of keeping Crown forests healthy, diverse, and productive so Ontario’s forest industry can remain viable over the long term. The strategy also focusses on the importance of putting more wood to work, improving cost competitiveness, and fostering innovation, new markets and talent.
By Michael MacDonald
HALIFAX — An invasive insect from Asia is expected to kill almost every ash tree in Canada, but Donnie McPhee has a plan to preserve the species.
Co-ordinator for the National Tree Seed Centre in Fredericton, McPhee is asking Canadians to help him find mature stands where seeds can be gathered and later stored for future generations in the centre’s deep-freeze vaults.
“We’re looking to protect the genetic diversity of the species,” McPhee said in an interview. “We’re looking for natural stands of trees that are in seed …. We want Canadians to be our eyes — to let us know they’re out there.”
And the time is right to start the search because the white ash and black ash — two of the most common species — are expected to produce a bumper crop of seeds this fall. The centre’s website provides details on what to look for, but seed collecting should be left to experts.
“We’ve already had people showing up with big bags of ash seed … but it’s too early in the season,” McPhee said.
Larvae of the emerald ash borer, a small beetle with an iridescent green hue, have already killed millions of trees in Canada and the United States, and the pest’s population is still growing.
The larvae make tunnels underneath the tree’s bark, cutting off nutrient flow to the canopy, which eventually kills the tree.
“The reports I’ve seen suggest that within 50 years, there might not be any ash trees anywhere in the country,” McPhee said.
McPhee’s long-term plan is to have the centre retrieve the collected ash seeds from cold storage in about 40 or 50 years, when the ash borer population has dwindled and safe planting can begin.
“The population of the insect will drop way down because the food supply isn’t there,” he said. “At that time, we want to go in and put the genetic diversity of the population back to where it came from.”
By Kira Barrett
North America is on the cusp of a mass timber revolution, and the Waterfront Toronto project is leading the way. But the material faces major obstacles.
Abuilding made primarily of wood conjures public fear of fire, but for a growing number of developers, it evokes opportunity. From constructing towering wooden condominiums, to timber college dormitories, to an entire neighborhood built from trees, experts in “mass timber” are creating buildings of the future.
Sidewalk Labs’ master plan for a futuristic smart city on the waterfront in Toronto includes an entire neighborhood made of wood, called Quayside, with 10 mixed-use building up to 35 stories.
The plan is audacious, considering that in the U.S., there are only 221 mass timber buildings in the works or fully built, according to the American Wood Council’s Kenneth Bland.
In most U.S. cities, mass timber buildings, and specifically tall mass timber buildings, are a rarity, if they exist at all.
But architects, city officials and timber advocates across North America are pushing conventional building codes and public perception because of the drastic impact these structures can have on reducing CO2 through carbon sequestration, compared to traditional concrete and steel.
“I think it’s a big opportunity for a lot of cities out there … The impact on reducing carbon emissions on earth could be dramatic,” Karim Khalifa, director of buildings innovation at Sidewalk Labs, told Smart Cities Dive. “And that gets me excited.”
What is mass timber?
One of the biggest obstacles for city officials is understanding the material. They are more than buildings made of wood — they’re defined by their structure. Steel or concrete buildings with wood accents don’t count, according to Andrew Tsay Jacobs from architecture firm Perkins and Will.
Mass timber buildings use solid wood panels to frame a building’s walls, floors and roofs, creating structures that can reach at least 18 stories, as is the case with the tallest mass timber building in the world in Norway. But these buildings aren’t just pure wood. Mass timber construction utilizes engineered wood, or panels glued together, and there are several types: cross-laminated (CLT), glue-laminated and dowel-laminated timber, with CLT being the most common.
While shorter wood buildings have existed for centuries, CLT panel technology is relatively new. It was developed in Europe in the 1990s, the material was only added to the international building code in 2015. Even then, all-wood buildings were capped at six stories, though that will change to allow taller structures in 2021.
By Molly Priddy
The U.S. timber industry scored a win on April 9 in the decades-long battle with Canada over softwood lumber, after the World Trade Organization ruled in its favor.
On April 9, the WTO decided that the United States Department of Commerce had done the correct calculations when it determined anti-dumping duties on Canadian softwood lumber.
“It’s a victory for the United States and the forest products industry,” said Chuck Roady, general manager of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber, as well as the president of the Montana Wood Products Association. “It was great to see an excellent decision on our part, because the U.S. rarely prevails in the WTO.”
Softwood lumber has been the subject of an enduring trade dispute between the two countries, and the most recent Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) lapsed in 2016 after 10 years.
The roots of the dispute come down to two different forms of government having two different methods of lumber harvest. Canada’s provincial government owns the majority of timberlands that provide trees to Canadian producers, charging an administered fee. In the U.S., the timberlands are typically privately owned, and the market determines the price of those logs through public sales.
“Both systems work until you sell the lumber in the United States,” Roady said.
In November 2017, the U.S. Commerce Department determined that Canadian exporters had sold lumber in the U.S. for 3.2 percent to 8.9 percent under fair market value, and that Canada is subsidizing softwood lumber producers at rates of 3.34 percent to 18.19 percent. The department determined that Canadian lumber producers should then pay a combined tariff of 20.83 percent.
In its mixed ruling on April 9, the WTO determined that the U.S. use of “zeroing” to calculate the anti-dumping duties is not prohibited. In the past, the organization had ruled against the methodology.
The ruling also determined that the U.S. had violated international trade rules when it calculated the tariffs on softwood lumber imports, which Canada applauded.
By Michael Gorman
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin is promising “significant” changes to the province’s forestry sector as the government embraces more sustainable management. But critics say the government’s plan lacks important detail.
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin is promising a more sustainable forestry sector in Nova Scotia and less clear cutting as the province implements recommendations from the Lahey review of forestry practices, although how big that reduction will be remains to be seen.
The government’s long-awaited response to the report was released Monday and received positive reactions from critics and industry, though some said the province’s plan was short on detail.
“Forestry is a long-standing economic driver in Nova Scotia and it’s important we get it right,” Rankin said in a news release.
“We accept Prof. Lahey’s findings and will immediately begin work to put in place the tools to achieve ecological forestry in Nova Scotia. This will result in significant changes to the way forests will be managed, including less clear cutting on Crown land.”
Bill Lahey, the president of University of King’s College, presented his final report in August.
The predominant theme of the report was reducing clear cutting to 20 to 25 per cent of all harvesting on Crown land from 65 per cent.
The report recommended using a “triad model” that would see some areas used for intensive commercial forestry, some protected from all commercial activity, and some designated for less intensive forestry with little to no clear cutting.