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

Darwyn S. Coxson, Trevor Goward, David J. Connell

Abstract


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.


Keywords


inland temperate rainforest; western redcedar; Fraser River; tourism; protected areas

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