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CAN FOREST MANAGEMENT SAFELY EMULATE NATURAL DISTURBANCES AND LANDSCAPE PATTERNS IN PRECAMBRIAN SHIELD SHORELINE FORESTS?

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Shoreline (riparian) forests are not excluded from Ontario's Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) requirement to emulate natural disturbance and landscape patterns during forest management. In boreal forests of Ontario, efficient fire suppression is combined with management policies that prescribe 30 to 90 m forested shoreline reserves around most lakes > 10 ha in size. These shoreline reserves are intended to protect fish habitat, shoreline appearance, wildlife habitat, heritage values, or a combination. Many foresters believe that these riparian management policies are producing shoreline forests dominated by shade-tolerant tree species not representative of natural boreal forest conditions, in unnatural linear patterns highly susceptible to blowdown, contrary to the CFSA. Recent research in Ontario and Qu├ębec suggests that temporary shoreline deforestation by wildfire or clearcutting does not harm boreal lake ecosystems. If this is a general and reliable result, it implies that the existing fish habitat protection policy may be conservative for lakes, and that some shoreline reserves presently prescribed to protect fish habitat could be harvested and regenerated without harm to water quality or fish habitat. Remaining uncertainties regarding the generality and reliability of these research findings can only be resolved through operational adaptive-management trials, coupled with appropriate quantitative monitoring. Knowledge gained from this research will facilitate integration of Ontario's present suite of management guidelines for riparian forests. This is a key step towards development of science-based, landscape-scale disturbance criteria for managed boreal forests.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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