BC Journal of Ecosystems and Management

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The Journal of Ecosystems and Management (JEM) is a peer-reviewed electronic journal covering natural resource and ecosystem management issues relevant to British Columbia. In addition to scientific articles, JEM provides a forum for commentary on current natural resource challenges. JEM’s broad readership includes natural resource practitioners, professionals, policymakers and researchers. The Journal extends research results, indigenous knowledge, management applications, socio-economic analyses and scholarly opinions. JEM is an open-source journal, freely available to the public at www.jem-online.org .

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Updated: 1 day 20 hours ago

Managing Zone-of-Influence Impacts of Oil and Gas Activities on Terrestrial Wildlife and Habitats in British Columbia

Thu, 2016-07-14 00:00

A “zone of influence” is the difference between an anthropogenic activity’s spatial footprint and the extent of the activity’s effects on surrounding habitat and wildlife. This article reviews studies that have measured zones of influence for site-level activities that are relevant to oil and gas activities in British Columbia in order to inform the development of policies and procedures to manage their effects on terrestrial habitats and wildlife. Creation of edges, as well as noise and activity associated with industrial sites and roads, are the major stressors that generate zones of influence. These stressors create cascading effects that can result in altered ecosystems through a variety of mechanisms. Stressors can create abiotic and floristic effects that generally extend < 100 m into surrounding intact habitat, but effects on wildlife can extend up to 5 km and sometimes farther. Mitigating stressors at their source should reduce zones of influence and the need to apply management buffers to separate industrial activities from ecological resources.

Science-Based Guidelines for Managing Northern Goshawk Breeding Areas in Coastal British Columbia

Mon, 2015-11-09 00:00
Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis laingi) have been recognized as a species of management concern in western North America for over 20 years. One of the most significant factors threatening Northern Goshawk populations in coastal British Columbia is the loss and fragmentation of structurally old and mature forests they use for breeding, foraging, and roosting. The goal of this report is to provide science-based guidelines for qualified environmental professonals to assist in their decision-making processes concerning Northern Goshawk habitat management in coastal British Columbia. These guidelines were previously unavailable or inconsistent and did not provide a thorough review of the scientific literature. The best management practices presented here are intended for use by qualified environmental professonals and managers when undertaking industrial activities, primarily forestry, around Northern Goshawk breeding areas within coastal British Columbia.

Impacts and Susceptibility of Young Pine Stands to the Mountain Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus Ponderosae in British Columbia

Wed, 2015-11-04 00:00
The impact of mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins (Coleoptera: Scolytinae), is the most significant source of mortality of mature pine forests in western North America; however, in 2003-2004, high levels of mortality were observed in young pine stands in central British Columbia. This study investigagtes the impact of mountain pine beetle in these young pine stands. In 2005 and 2006, 24 plots were established throughout the mountain pine beetle-affected area of British Columbia. Cumulative mortality reached 83% in some plots. Secondary bark beetles and other pests contributed to overall stand mortality and decline but to a far lesser degree than mountain pine beetle. Stem deterioration and falldown was very rapid and severe in young stands following attack. Over 70% of attacked trees in the Sub-Boreal Spruce ecosystem were severely deteriorated, or had fallen less than 5 years after attack. The largest pines in young stands were attacked first, and brood production and emergence in these trees was more successful than in smaller, younger cohorts. Many attached stands had received silvicultural treatments. Once the outbreak in adjacent mature stands had subsided, very little new attack occurred in these young stands. Brood production was successful, albeit lower in young trees than in mature trees.

Arboreal Squirrel Abundance in Response to a Gradient of Mountain Pine Beetle Attack in Sub-boreal Forests

Tue, 2015-09-22 00:00

To assist in evaluating habitat retention options, the abundance of northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) wer examined in 2005 and again in 2010 across a gradient of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) attack intensity in sub-boreal forests of west-central British Columbia. Among 30, 16-ha live-trapping grids, estimated mean abundance of both species increased non-linearly with remaining basal area of live overstorey (live trees ≥ 7.5 cm diameter at 1.3 m height). A weak (most likely positive but possibly negative) additional response of flying squirrels to dead overstorey (on average 1 m2/ha dead ≈ +0.11 m2/ha live basal area) was evident. The basal area of live spruce-fir (Picea spp., Abies spp.) overstorey, understorey tree density, and tree diameter covariates did not have substantive additional effects on estimated squirrel abundance. Whereas survey year affected overall abundance, it did not change the relationship with habitat attributes. The results suggest that dead lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) has low habitat value for arboreal squirrels and thus is of lower impact on squirrels if salvage-harvested; however, retention or re-growth of sufficient live overstorey is necessary to maintain or recover squirrel abundance. The basal area of
live overstorey appears a simple yet useful management metric for prioritizing habitat
value, at least as indicated by relative abundance for squirrels in beetle-affected forests.

Queuing up the Olives: Confronting an Invasive Tree

Fri, 2015-09-18 00:00
The Russian olive tree (eleagnus angustifolia—no relation to the real olive) was brought to North America from southern Europe in the early 1900s, first as a windbreak tree and later as a drought-tolerant ornamental.

Investigating the Carbon Footprint of Cattle Grazing the Lac du Bois Grasslands of British Columbia

Tue, 2015-04-07 00:00

Greenhouse gas emissions from cattle have been increasingly recognized as an important anthropogenic source. We investigated the impact of cattle ranching on these emissions in British Columbia in order to determine the overall carbon footprint. The grazing activity within the Lac du Bois grasslands of British Columbia was examined, with emphasis on identifying point sources and removals of greenhouse gas emissions from cattle ranching. Enteric methane emissions were empirically measured at two elevation gradients in the spring and fall of 2010. Cattle emitted on average 370 L CH4 per day; these measurements on native grasslands are comparable to work on tame pastures. A life cycle analysis was conducted with a validated HOLOS model based on empirical measurements. The following grassland improvement strategies were evaluated: reducing stocking density; and reseeding/interseeding grass and legumes with and without synthetic fertilizer additions. Reseeding was the most effective at reducing the carbon footprint of cattle ranching on the Lac du Bois grasslands. Reseeding initiatives could theoretically result in soil carbon sequestration rates of 2.12 Mg CO2 equivalent per hectare. A combination of reductions and removals should be implemented in the future to reduce the overall carbon footprint of cattle ranching in British Columbia.

Badger Resource Selection in the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia

Fri, 2014-07-11 00:00

Conservation of species at risk requires an understanding of resource-selection patterns and habitat distribution. We used 1,795 radio-telemetry locations from 55 study animals to model resource selection for an endangered population of American badger (Taxidea taxus jeffersonii, eastern population) in the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia. The badgers were associated with low elevations, shallow slopes, high solar radiation, and low crown closure. They selected higher elevations only on sites with shallow slopes or high solar radiation. Compared to mesic low-elevation forests, badgers selected locations where the climax ecoclass was riparian forest or very open low-elevation forest. In comparison to Douglas-fir stands, badgers selected clearings, moist forest, and open range. They avoided lodgepole pine stands, western larch stands, and wet areas. Relative to the Brunisol soil order, they avoided Podzolic – Luvisolic and Regosolic-Gleysolic orders. Compared to Morainal soil parent material, the badgers avoided colluvial, rock, aeolian, and anthropogenic and selected for glaciolacustrine parent material. Results were consistent both with expectations from other provincial studies and with cover types used by Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus), which are their main prey. Our model provides a spatially explicit tool to prioritize areas for restoration or critical habitat designation. Reduction of crown closure would benefit badgers, and would probably be the most advantageous on Brunisolic or Chernozemic soils and glaciolacustrine parent material.

Managing Editor's Report

Fri, 2014-03-14 00:00



Trends in renewable resource management in BC

Tue, 2014-03-11 00:00
We examined trends in legal responsibilities, budgets and staffing, primarily for the BC government’s renewable resource ministries (forests, fish, wildlife, and parks). Legal responsibilities (complexity) of forest management expanded substantially from 1912 to 2011, almost tripling in the last 25 years. Government expenditures on renewable resources increased steadily from 1975 to 1997, but decreased by approximately half since then. However, the budgets for the remaining “non-resource” sectors of government more than doubled since 1997. The number of professional foresters employed in both government and industry has declined in recent years, more so in industry. Although the total number of professional biologists in the province has increased steadily since 1980, the Ministry of Environment has lost nearly 30 percent of its biologists since 2002. These decreases in funding and staffing jeopardize key management functions, and put the province’s renewable natural resources at increasing risk

Grassland and Forest Understory Vegetation Monitoring: An Introduction to Field Methods

Wed, 2014-01-22 00:00
Quantitative methodologies of grassland and forest understory vegetation monitoring are introduced and compared. Visual cover estimates, line intercept, point intercept, belt transect, basal area and biomass monitoring methods are explained from a field perspective. An annotated bibliography is attached.

Bioenergy is a viable solution to BC's Wildland-Urban Interface fuels problem; however, a number of policy changes are needed first

Wed, 2014-01-22 00:00

We have an increasing wildfire risk to communities of the province that is not being effectively addressed by the current hazard reduction program. Existing planning and remediation efforts are a small fraction of what is required given the march of climate change, the steady accumulation of forest fuels in the WUI and the large number of affected communities. The greatest barrier to an adequate response is the high cost of initial and recurring treatments, dependent primarily on tax funds from senior governments, and the lack of a policy framework that makes it possible to earn offsetting revenues from remedial work. Continuing on this trajectory will bring the predictable results of increasingly frequent and increasingly severe interface fires. A solution to this impasse is a major departure from current policy and practice; it is an attempt to turn an economic barrier into an economic advantage by converting a fuel surplus from a costly burden to a commercially valuable energy source. Because the proposal affects the legislated jurisdictions of communities, the tenure rights of existing industry, the encouragement of a new energy industry, the revision of silvicultural requirements, the linked use of merchantable timber and lower value biomass, expanding the carbon offset regime and sensitivity to international timber pricing agreements it is a formidable challenge to our current forest administration. Such a bold transformation likely cannot be approached piecemeal nor can it be applied province-wide without practical trial.

An Evaluation of the Main Factors Affecting Yield Differences Between Single- and Mixed-Species Stands

Wed, 2014-01-22 00:00
In British Columbia, many of our second-growth stands have regenerated as mixed-species stands and yet our understanding of how to manage these stands to achieve multiple goals is limited. There is considerable interest and need to identify management strategies that will optimize timber production and carbon storage while maintaining biodiversity in the province’s managed forests. Careful use of mixed-species management may contribute to meeting these goals. This discussion paper reviews the published literature that compares yield in single-and mixed-species stands. The review shows that drawing any definitive conclusions on whether mixed-species stands had a higher yield than single-species stands is not possible because of the confounding influence of four key factors: 1) species composition; 2) site type; 3) density and pattern; and 4) assessment age. To plan mixed-species plantations with native species that may out-yield monocultures and have other potential benefits, silviculturists will need to extrapolate from past research and pay close attention to these factors.

BC Grassland Resources and Climate Change

Wed, 2013-12-11 00:00

The native grasslands and associated dry woodland ecosystems of the BC Interior are an important economic, biodiversity, and recreational resource. They also form an integral part of our cultural fabric, contributing to a sense of place-identity for many British Columbians. All the ecosystems of the Province will experience fundamental shifts as a result of climate change, but given the unique and complex nature of the Bunchgrass (BG), Ponderosa Pine (PP) and the dry phases of the Interior Douglas-fir (IDF) Biogeoclimatic (BGC) zones, they are deserving of a separate treatment. This discussion paper is not intended as a definitive review, but rather to initiate dialogue on an issue that is significant to both the livestock and conservation sectors.

Evidence supporting the need for a common soil monitoring protocol

Thu, 2013-12-05 00:00
Many public land management agencies monitor forest soils for levels of disturbance related to management activities. Although several soil disturbance monitoring protocols based on visual observation have been developed to assess the amount and types of disturbance caused by forest management, no common method is currently used on National Forest lands in the United States. We present data on relative soil disturbance based on harvest system from National Forests throughout Montana and Idaho. Because each National Forest uses its own method for data collection, we developed a common, well-defined visual class system for analyses based on the existing soil monitoring data that accurately normalized disparate classifications. Using this common system, we detected differences in soil disturbance between the ground-based and overhead harvest systems; however, no site attributes (slope, aspect, soil texture, etc.) affected soil disturbance levels. The individual National Forest was the most important factor explaining differences among harvest units. The effect of National Forest may be explained by different forest types, soils, harvest practices, or administrative procedures, but the most likely explanation is differences among the various qualitative classification approaches to soil disturbance monitoring. Although
this analysis used a large data set, our inability to correlate disturbance with site characteristics and the differences between monitoring methods points to the need for common terms and comparable guidelines for soil disturbance monitoring.

Her majesty, social license, and energy development in British Columbia

Mon, 2013-10-21 00:00

Crown land is unique to the Commonwealth and better represented in British Columbia than anywhere else in the Commonwealth (95% of the land base). Through tradition and common law, British Columbians have come to define Crown lands as publicly owned lands that belong to all residents and to expect governments to shepherd them for the benefit of all. Social licence to operate on this land requires approval from the local community and other stakeholders. The concept of Crown land makes every British Columbian a potential stakeholder and has led to more drama and noise around social licence than occurs elsewhere. The four main reasons for failure in past applications for social licence have been a lack of respect, assuming economics is a sufficient framework, appearing to bully, and hiding or obscuring information deemed relevant. Recent events in the province suggest the provincial and federal governments, and some companies, have learned little from past failures. Energy development faces particular challenges because location counts and impacts are both intrusive and extensive, but the errors described here are avoidable. W. Edwards Deming reputedly observed, “Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.” Some companies have learned.

The topic is addressed under six headings: (1) Whose land is it?; (2) What the public has said; (3) Defining social licence; (4) Lessons from exploring social licence; (5) Lessons and energy development; and (6) What’s next?

Managing Editor's Report

Tue, 2013-10-15 00:00

Tomentosus Root Rot Forest Health Stand Establishment Decision Aid

Wed, 2013-05-29 00:00
None required for a SEDA.

Use of airborne gamma radiometrics to infer soil properties for a forested area in British Columbia, Canada

Tue, 2013-05-21 00:00

We obtained radiometric data from a public-domain archive maintained by Natural Resources Canada and processed them to produce a ternary image for a portion of the Cariboo region. A field program was used to evaluate what information could be reliably inferred from the available data. This initial investigation confirmed that the radiometrics for this area exhibited consistent and useful patterns to interpret the lithology, mineralogy, depth, and moisture status of the surficial materials. Different colour patterns in the ternary image correlated well with different compositions of the various tills. We noted a clear association between higher values of radioactive emission and more recently deposited aeolian, alluvial, and glaciofluvial sediments that contained higher concentrations of relatively unweathered minerals. We observed a clear pattern of lower emission from wetlands and areas of wet soil. Airborne radiometrics, even at 500-m line spacing, provided invaluable and precise information—not otherwise obtainable—for mapping or modelling spatial variation in properties of the surficial material within the forested study area in British Columbia. We recommend further investigations to develop operational procedures for the use of such data in mapping surficial materials.