What Is Old-Growth? What is an Ancient Forest?
Old-growth forest is generally understood to be a forest that has not undergone any major disturbance (such as logging, landslide, fire, etc.) for more than 140-200 years. In many regions around the world, forest fires start naturally (e.g. by lightning) and burn forests as part of a normal cycle. In places like Clayoquot Sound however, fire is not a natural part of the forest ecosystem due to the extraordinary amount of rain. The absence of fire allows trees in the temperate rainforest of Clayoquot Sound to reach ages of more than 1500 years. This type of forest is often referred to as old or ancient-growth. Due to human encroachment, old-growth forest has become a very rare type of ecosystem that is highly prized by the logging industry.
Ancient Forests -- Home to Biodiversity
Globally, ancient forests are rare and provide some of the last remaining habitat for the world's endangered species. Large and undisturbed forests, also known as "frontier forests", are critical to the survival of many threatened species. Small or fragmented forests (like the parks in Clayoquot Sound) can lead to small wildlife populations, which are vulnerable to disease, inbreeding, hunting, etc. Today, only one fifth of the world's original frontier forests remain.
Many species on Vancouver Island are imperilled due to rampant logging that has cleared about 3/4 of the Island's ancient forests and converted them into tree farms that are logged every 40-120 years. Logging on the Island and in British Columbia has been undertaken mostly with disregard for the unique needs of many sensitive species, including species completely dependent upon ancient forests. As a result, 1 in 8 species in BC is now threatened with extinction. On the Island, cougar and wolf populations for example, have already plummeted by 50% in the past 10-20 years due to the effects of logging, according to the BC government. It is widely recognized that undisturbed or frontier forests, like that of Clayoquot Sound, provide the best opportunity for the survival of species.
Click on one of the following to learn more about ancient and old-growth forests:
PO Box 489, 331 Neill St., Tofino BC V0R 2Z0
Report: Overview of Logging in Clayoquot Sound 2000-2009 (download page)
Photo by Adrian Dorst
The health of the global environment depends on intact ecosystems. It is our responsibility to act as peaceful and courageous advocates for marine and terrestrial life in Clayoquot Sound. Please join us!