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Preservation of old-growth forests: a case study of Big Timber Park, Whistler, BC

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Abstract:

This paper explores the concepts of old-growth forests, preservation and natural disturbance and demonstrates how contemporary biogeographic theory contributes to successful preservation of old-growth forests. The case study analyzes the composition, structure, age and growth histories of trees in Big Timber Park, Whistler, British Columbia. Composition. The structure of the forest was diverse and tree ages ranged from 122 to 305 years. The densities of large old Douglas-fir, shade-tolerant trees and all snags are indicative of old-growth forests; however, maximum tree diameters and densities of large snags and logs do not meet quantitative criteria for old-growth forests. The abundance of tree regeneration and understory vegetation are relatively low. We conclude that some aspects of Big Timber Park are transitional between the mature and old-growth stages of forest development. In the future, fine-scale canopy gaps caused by tree senescence and interactions among insects, pathogens and wind are expected to dominate stand dynamics. Forest structure will become increasingly complex, exemplifying the dynamic nature of old-growth forests. To successfully preserve Big Timber Park and La préservation des forêtsother old-growth forests in Canada requires understanding of natural disturbances. Preservation and the criteria and indicators used to measure successful preservation must explicitly include elements of natural change.

Keywords: Douglas-fir; Pacific silver fir; canopy gap dynamics; dynamique des trouées dans le couvert forestier; développement du peuplement; forêts anciennes; natural disturbance; old-growth forests; perturbation naturelle; protected areas network; pruche de l'ouest; réseau d'aires protégées; sapin de Douglas; sapin gracieux; stand development; thuya géant; western hemlock; western red cedar

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-0064.2008.00218.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6 T 1Z2 ( ), Email: daniels@geog.ubc.ca 2: University of Melbourne, Australia; 221 Bouverie Street, Cartlon 3010, Victoria, Australia ( ), Email: jlade@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au 3: Snowline Ecological Research, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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