Forest Carbon and Ecosystem Services

Pictures: @Maria Chadid

The forests located in the province of British Columbia (BC) are known for their complex structure offering a multitude of ecosystem services (e.g. climate regulation, water, timber, recreation, biodiversity, Indigenous cultural values etc.). Forest harvesting can reduce these values if not carefully managed and can switch forests from being sinks of carbon to sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change. 

We are working to understand the role of harvesting on the short and long-term carbon dynamics of BC’s forested ecosystems. Researchers at CS Lab have been collecting data across BC to understand how silvicultural systems (i.e. variable retention vs clearcut) affect carbon flux among these forests.

Find out more about our research projects that assess the role of alternative approaches to forest harvesting on the carbon sequestration on some of the forests in BC.


Conservation of Old-growth forests in British Columbia

In their later stages of development, Forests attain attributes that support biodiversity and provide various ecological benefits (e.g. clean water and carbon storage). Despite their values, old-growth forests are declining worldwide in part due to anthropogenic pressures. In British Columbia, one of the leading causes of old-growth loss is timber harvesting.

The CSL is investigating the effects of timber harvesting on forest structure, biodiversity and regeneration, and its role in the current state of old-growth in BC. As the way forward for forest management and old-growth conservation in BC, we want to evaluate how community-managed forests (area-based silviculture initiative) compares to volume-based initiatives regarding the retention of old-growth values. Community-managed forests have the potential to become a sustainable way forward for forest management in BC.

The long-term effects of variable retention forestry on forest carbon flux in British Columbia.

The forests of British Columbia cover ~55 M ha, have the highest density of carbon in Canada and are some of the most biodiverse areas in North America.  BC’s productive forests have been transformed by intensive forest practices, such as clearcuts, from old-growth or primary intact forests into managed forests.

Partial harvesting or Variable Retention forestry is an alternative approach to clearcut harvesting, which aims to retain elements and features of the original forest (e.g. live and dead trees, snags, decayed logs), providing habitat and natural resources for other species and promoting a faster recovery in time.

CSL members are collecting data from long-term experiments across  BC to understand how partial harvesting systems affect forest carbon dynamics (e.g. Carbon sequestration and flux through trees, decayed wood, soil and the atmosphere). We aim to support decision making related to implementing these practices while meeting climate change mitigation, ecological and economic goals.