Friday, February 24, 2006


Most of us living in Oceanside know what a Douglas-fir looks like, after all they are the most common tree species found in this area.Trees support entire plant communities, and only mature trees provide the complexity needed for the full range and diversity of plants. The simple fact is that these massive trees were strong, abundant, close to the sea, and therefore they were logged to the brink of extinction along with the vegetation they support. As a result the Douglas-fir/Salal and Douglas-fir/Sword Fern are both red listed as rare and endangered plant communities on Vancouver Island.

The British Columbia Ministry of Forests references forest types by designating them into specific biogeoclimatic zone. Identification is base on three points of reference: “Bio” indicates the biological nature of the ecosystem based on the vegetation, “Geo” indicates the use of soils and geology, and “climatic” refers to the climate. The entire province has been classified into 14 biogeoclimatic zones. This system should not be confused with the scientific identification of all ecosystem in British Columbia because these terms have been established by foresters, working for the BC government, who are primarily interested in identification of trees for logging by private corporations.

The Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone is limited to a very small region of BC. A thin strip along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Deep Bay south to Victoria, several of the Gulf Islands, and small patches around Powell River and the Sunshine Coast. The rest of Vancouver Island is designated as Coastal Western Hemlock or Mountain Hemlock. These forests are completely different with regard to tree types, ground cover, and most notable moisture. The most extreme rainfall is found along the north west coast of the Island where the annual average is 4.5 meters according to statistics Canada. The Oceanside area, being in the rain shadow of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range, is usually much dryer with annual rainfall less than 1 meter. Most of Vancouver Island maintains some moisture through the summer with early morning fog that rolls in off the Pacific and the occasional rainfall but in the Coastal Douglas-fir zone there are long periods of drought .

Take a look around at the limited number of old-growth Douglas Fir trees in Oceanside and you will likely notice that the bark is blacken like charcoal. Older Douglas-fir are able to survive fires because they have very thick bark which helps to protect them from the heat and flames. Thin barked trees such as cedar, hemlock and most deciduous trees burnt to the ground in naturally occurring fires during past centuries. The cones from Douglas-fir that remained standing in a blackened and charred landscape would colonize the surrounding area which was devoid of competition. It would take many millenia for the process of succession to allow shade tolerant trees like hemlock and cedar to become dominant. Then fire would start the process over again leaving only a few remnant Douglas-fir giants as seed trees.

With the exception of a few remnant old-growth Douglas-fir, most of the trees that surround us in Oceanside are in the very early stages of their lives, anywhere from seedlings to 80 years old. Considering that a Douglas-fir reaches it climax at approximately 800 to 1000 year, then the trees around here are not even ready to attend kindergarten. The Coastal Douglas-fir zone is one of the smallest of British Columbia’s 14 biogeoclimatic zones yet it contains some of the province’s rarest vegetation with a diversity of ecosystems that is unparalleled. This fragile environment is seriously threatened by continuing human development.

The rest of BC has 12% of the land base set aside as protected and/or park thanks to the hard work of many dedicated citizens who convinced the NDP government of the 1990s that this was a priority. Granted much of this land is mountain tops, rock, and ice but it far exceeds the protection for land on Vancouver Island. Please write to Gordon Campbell and let him know that 6% forest protection is NOT ENOUGH for Vancouver Island! The BC Liberals require that you include your full mailing address so they know you are a voter.

No comments: