British Columbia: Rainforests

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Mon, 2007/01/15 - 4:00pm.
Report prepared by Susanne Davies and Jillian Stuart, Students in BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program.

A temperate rainforest is defined as “a forest developing in a temperate climate in which winters are mild and precipitation is abundant year round.” British Columbia’s rainforest is the largest remaining intact rainforest and most biologically productive rainforest in the world. The rainforest consists of four biogeoclimatic zones: Coastal Western Hemlock, Coastal Douglas Fir, Mountain Hemlock, and Interior Cedar-Hemlock. Each zone is characterized by dominant coniferous trees and associated broadleaf trees and shrubs. For example, the Coastal Western Hemlock zone is dominated by western hemlock and extends up the coast of the province. This zone is directly influenced by the Pacific Ocean and is exposed to high annual precipitation.

British Columbia’s rainforests are also characterized by their old-growth forests, which are “trees that are at least 250 years old and have a complex physical structure.” There are four major characteristics that are common to old-growth forests: standing dead trees, fallen dead trees, standing live trees, and a multi-layered canopy.

An important factor in old-growth forests is biodiversity. Biodiversity is “the variety of living things in a particular area”. There are over 4,000 species of plants and animals in the rainforests; 168 of these species are endemic to the province. Each plant and animal species plays an important role in this diverse ecosystem. An important part of the temperate rainforest is the marine ecosystem and the coastal mountain range. Together they shape every aspect and climate of the temperate rainforest environment.

The rainforests in British Columbia have changed drastically over time. For example, Vancouver used to be dominated by giant, 100 m-tall trees before urbanization occurred. Some changes are natural and some are caused by human interference but they both consistently intertwine. The great increases in fossil-fuel burning, energy consumption, and especially clear-cutting have severely affected the rainforest ecosystems. On another note, global warming, whether a natural occurrence or an effect of human activity, is also changing the climate patterns that affect rainforests. Of all these changes, clear-cutting is both the most controversial and the most critical.

These rainforests are important for many reasons. They give British Columbia a beautiful landscape which attracts tourists, provide jobs for thousands of people in the province, and support many animals that survive here, some of whom cannot live anywhere else. It is therefore important to protect and preserve as much of this lush forest as we can. The logging industry in British Columbia is a huge driver of the economy and it is important that we don’t take the forest for granted: if we keep clear-cutting as we are today, one day the forest will be gone.

Many initiatives are gaining increasing numbers of support from civilians to help protect the rainforest. This factor is essential to the survival of the rainforest: without educating the public, the rainforest cannot survive.

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