From nutrient cycling to climate regulation to watershed protection: Old growth forests are worth more standing.
"The inland temperate rainforest both affects climate change and is affected by climate change. Because of its high productivity and high levels of standing biomass, it has a role in global carbon dynamics that is disproportionate to its area" *
Old growth forests don't have to consist of huge trees to accomplish the incredible services they provide to the planet. Another term that applies to forest composition and conservation is primary forest - which are OLD ecosystems - as old as you can get in some cases!
Primary forests are naturally regenerated forests of native species, including all tree ages, whose structure and dynamics are dominated by ecological and evolutionary processes, including natural disturbance regimes. No clearly visible indications of human activities occur, and ecological processes are not significantly disrupted in primary forests.* Primary forests are imperiled ecosystems.
In 2019, BC's government appointed an independent panel of two scientists to undertake a province-wide Old Growth Strategic Review, which was provided as a report to the public and to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development in 2020. The report provided 14 recommendations for future management, which the province has said it would fulfill... but time is running out.
In 2020, the BC government committed to adopting all 14 recommendations of the independent panel on old growth, beginning with the immediate deferral of nearly 200,000 hectares of old-growth forests, with further commitments to defer the logging of 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests. We think this is a good first step, however, this does not amount to permanent protection. The deferrals will be for about two years while the government consults with Indigenous groups. Hopefully this consultation will make the protection of these old growth forests permanent, but it is understood that some Indigenous groups might have issues with how the consultations are taking place.
We recommend checking out: BC's Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity (2020), to learn more about Old Growth in BC, how it is faring, and why it matters. This is an important independent report by three scientists. Also check out this informative Old Growth mapping tool created by Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.
You can try this GoogleEarth Timelapse Tool to view the clearing of forests that has occurred over the past few decades.
Stevenson, S., Armleder, A., Coxson, D., Delong S.C., and M. Jull. (2011). British Columbia's inland rainforest: Ecology, conservation, and management. UBC Press.
DellaSala, D.A.; Strittholt, J.R.; Degagne, R.; Mackey, B.; Werner, J.R.; Connolly, M.; Coxson, D.; Couturier, A.; Keith, H. Red-Listed Ecosystem Status of Interior Wetbelt and Inland Temperate Rainforest of British Columbia, Canada. Land 2021, 10, 775. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10080775