Forest Education

Climate Change – What is it?

Climate change refers to the human-induced climatic changes that are driving a major shift in historical ecological patterns globally. Within British Columbia, climate change may be seen as warmer temperatures and lowered precipitation levels (snow and rain). Other regions of Canada may alternatively experience abnormally high levels of precipitation.

Regardless of the direction of change, the severity of these climatic changes continue to negatively impact ecological patterns such as wildlife populations, wildlife migration routes, plant and tree community composition, natural fire regimes, soil composition, sea levels, and much more. These impacts may be direct or indirect, but are all as a result of human development. Historical levels of each impacted ecological pattern refers to the naturalized levels that have existed prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Human activities that are further driving climate change include: industrial animal agriculture, industrial agriculture (palm oil, soybeans, corn), industrial deforestation, oil and gas development, road development, plastic pollution, urbanization, and much more. These activities occur globally, thus, climate change remains to be a global issue requiring globally-minded, yet locally-sourced problem solving.

The Community Forest and Climate Change

The effects of climate change has been becoming more and more tangible for the BC Forest Industry as summer months become hotter and drier, and winters receive less snow pack. These changes pose silvicultural challenges for all forest licensees, utlimately causing issues in successful tree growth. The amount and timing of tree death has been becoming a concern as soil moisture levels are continously dropping. Lower snowpack during the winter months results in less soil moisture during the growing season, and warmer and drier summers mean any residual soil moisture evaporates more quickly, leaving trees to drought out faster and in higher quantities. Furthermore, heightened fire risks beyond natural fire regimes pose threats to currently standing forests.

With our implementation of ecosystem-based management, the Creston Community Forest can actively manage for these issues by planning for the future. This includes planting trees that are native to the site’s ecology, but are relatively more tolerant towards hotter and drier conditions. Tree species such as Yellow Pine, Interior Douglas Fir, and Western Larch are well suited to these conditions, and may be a solution to maintaining timber resources for future generations. These species are also well-suited to forest fires due to their thick bark, lack of lower limbs, and high canopies. These features enable mature trees of such species to survive forest fires of low severity, and help prevent such fires from drastically increasing in intensity.

Another component of climate change that the Creston Community Forest faces is altered fire regimes. Due to unnaturally high fuel levels, areas surrounding Creston pose severe fire risk, outside of what our forests are naturally able to withstand. We aim to combat this through the implementation of fuel mitigation projects throughout the Wildland Urban Interface, where much of this area consists of high fuel buildup. In our harvesting plans, we also address many forest health issues (where applicable) that may otherwise increase forest fuel levels beyond what is natural. This includes removing diseased and some dead-standing trees to prevent subsequent fuel buildup, as they are most susceptible to windthrow.

To learn more about our fuel mitigation projects click here.

Our pilot fuel mitigation block near Canyon, BC. The  first of our fuel mitigation projects, it involved harvesting excess trees to space out the canopy such that branches would not be overlapping, as well as reducing the height and amount of the under-story. Furthermore, harvested trees consisted mainly of unhealthy thin bark species (such as Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock), leaving healthy cedar and hemlock, as well as fire resilient douglas fir, yellow pine, and larch. This area is now used for our forest education field trips. Pictured are the students from our World Environment Day field trip held on July 2019. This field trip featured a talk on climate change, discussing what the students can do to help the global issue.

Planted Western Larch seedlings within a burnt area. Mature Western Larch have thicker bark that enables them to withstand low severity fires, and can withstand harsh growing conditions. These characteristics make this tree species all the more reislient for future conditions.