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: 4 days 17 hours ago

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.

Climate Biomonitoring with Lichens in British Columbia’s Inland Temperate Rainforest

Fri, 2013-04-12 00:00

Rapid climate change is predicted for British Columbia’s Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR), a globally unique ecosystem. Lichens, which may serve as effective biomonitors of ecosystem health, have been proposed for use as climate change indicators for a variety of ecosystems globally. This research presents a climate biomonitoring protocol using arboreal macrolichen communities in the inland rainforest in British Columbia. We report our initial findings of 39 lichen taxa, including a number of rare species and cyanolichens, which may be especially sensitive to climate. Comparisons of these data with future measurements will provide an indication of how the inland rainforest may be responding to climate change.

Thinning of a Ponderosa Pine/Douglas-Fir Forest in South-Central BC: Impacts on Understorey Vegetation

Tue, 2013-04-09 00:00
The ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada, are facing problems such as forest in-growth mainly due to fire suppression, reducing grazing land area. This study focused on the use of thinning to reduce forest stand density and restore understorey species diversity and increase aboveground biomass productivity. Data were collected over a 4-year period. Species richness and diversity were generally lower under the canopy of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir trees than outside the canopy. Species diversity was reduced by thinning at one site but unaffected by thinning at the other. Total understorey biomass increased up to 80% within 3 to 4 years after thinning. Depending on site and year, biomass production of one or more plant groups, such as forb, shrub, or graminoid, increased. Reduction in litter depth was observed at both sites due to the removal and/or reduction of needle sources. Variations in species composition existed among blocks and between sites, suggesting greater sampling size may be needed in future research to better capture the spatial variability. Thinning reduces stand density and thereby reduces fuel load and enhances understorey species productivity.

Documenting Fire History in a British Columbia Ecological Reserve

Tue, 2013-04-09 00:00
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) ecosystems in British Columbia have high concentrations of biodiversity and species at risk, and numerous studies suggest frequent, low-intensity fire was a traditional disturbance pattern in this ecosystem type. Fire history was analyzed in the Trout Creek Ecological Reserve near Summerland, BC, a 75 ha parcel in the PPxh1 biogeoclimatic variant.The area’s fire history spans from 1715 to 1952, with a mean area fire interval of 18 years. Fire management options are reviewed.


Thu, 2013-03-14 00:00

Managing Editor's Report

Thu, 2013-03-14 00:00

Forage Production Potential in a Ponderosa Pine Stand: Effects of Tree Spacing on Understorey Plants after 45 Years

Wed, 2013-02-20 00:00

We examined the development of understorey forage plant communities in relation to tree density in an experimental ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) stand. We used a 45-year-old ponderosa pine spacing trial near Westwold, British Columbia, Canada, with five spacing treatments (1.22, 2.44, 3.66, 4.88, and 6.10 m) to sample understorey biomass and diversity, with a focus on pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) and rough fescue (Festuca campestris)—two regionally important forage grasses. We predicted that there would be a positive correlation between tree spacing and understorey biomass and a compositional shift from pinegrass to rough fescue under increased tree spacing. We found that rough fescue, the preferred forage species, grew only under tree spacings equal to or greater than 3.66 m, with the greatest biomass at 4.88 and 6.10 m spacings, whereas pinegrass was equally abundant under all spacings. We believe that silvopasture principles could be applied to similar ponderosa pine stands to optimize and maintain both timber and forage productivity.

Analysis of Ancient Western Redcedar Stands in the Upper Fraser River Watershed and Scenarios for Protection

Tue, 2013-01-29 00:00

Emerging research has highlighted the significance of ancient western redcedar (Thuja plicata) stands within the upper Fraser River watershed as examples of rare forest types within British Columbia’s inland temperate rainforest (ITR). These stands represent a globally significant repository of canopy lichen biodiversity. Ancient redcedar stands were historically found in greatest abundance in wet “toe-slope” topographic positions, where mountain slopes flatten out as they reach the valley bottom. Abundant groundwater runoff and wet soils in these topographic positions provided protection from fires and sustained trees during dry summer periods. However, the placement of road and rail corridors in these same topographic positions has facilitated the logging of many ancient redcedar stands. The result has been the widespread loss of ancient cedars, which today account for only 3.7% of the 130 571 ha ICHvk2 biogeoclimatic zone east of Prince George. Of the remaining ancient cedar stands found in the ICHvk2 less than 2% (approx. 100 ha) are currently protected within BC provincial parks. Here we outline three scenarios that would increase the proportion of this ecosystem within BC parks and would support landscape-level planning objectives for the upper Fraser River watershed. We suggest that the cultural and biological values represented by these proposed areas would meet criteria for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage or Biosphere Reserve site, ultimately resulting in widespread positive benefits for diversification of the regional economy, by building on a regional tourist attraction that has already developed at the site of the Ancient Forest Trail.