Rétablir la biodiversité
L'importance des arbres naturels est
profondément enracinée dans notre style de gestion forestière.
De cette façon, nous pouvons espérer restaurer
une petite parcelle de la forêt acadienne originelle.
Que vous rétablissiez une forêt, plantiez un
brise-vent ou que vous naturalisiez une pelouse, les plantes indigènes
sont un bon choix : elles sont adaptées aux conditions climatiques de
notre région et elles remplissent une variété de fonctions à
l'intérieur de notre écosystème.
trees is deeply ingrained in
style of forest management.
In this way,
we hope to restore a
piece of the original
Woods, a project of the
Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island
and the Sir Andrew Macphail Foundation
the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project began in 1991, the key
focus was the restoration of native Acadian woodlands. I had seen
enough remnants of those forests, filled with large old yellow birch,
sugar maple, white pine, red spruce and hemlock, to make me fall in
love. I knew that these forests could produce high-value products and
be incredible reservoirs for wildlife.
In Prince Edward Island, we have no large areas of original Acadian
forest rich in large, high-value trees such as white pine, red spruce,
sugar maple and yellow birch. Instead, there are young stands of white
spruce, balsam fir, red maple and white birch. As a province, we have
impoverished our forests and diminished their associated values. The
reliance on conifer plantations only continues this degradation.
I recently visited a forest that been healthy Acadian woodland 200
years ago, farmed for 150 years, then abandoned to grow up primarily
in white spruce. This is a common succession of farmland in the
province. A local contractor said it was falling down and should be
clearcut and replaced with a white pine plantation. My assessment was
that indeed the white spruce were starting to die, but that small
patch cuts would create the conditions in which the stand's existing
diversity would thrive. When I looked at the stand, I saw young
American beech, red maple, white birch, yellow birch, striped maple,
balsam fir (up to about 15 feet tall) and half a dozen species of
shrubs. The stand already had a good start. Small patch cuts would
generate lumber and could then be planted with red oak, white ash, and
white pine--a range of high-value species that benefit from side
The problem for woodlot owners is that if they decide to defer some
of their income (harvesting the remaining patches in the future) or
actually give up some of their income (by allowing more trees to die
and fall to the ground), they receive little support from the
province. Whereas, if they liquidate the stand, they get lots of money
from the contractor and the cost of the plantation is more than 90%
subsidized. Doubly damned.
It is important to protect the diversity of all our natural
ecosystems, whether that be wetlands, forests or shorelines. We need
to become "intelligent tinkerers," as Aldo Leopold suggests,
handling woodlands with humility and care.
Plantations remind me of potato fields, though in some ways the
potato growers use a bit more common sense. Someone planting a large
block of potatoes, even an organic farmer, would know beyond a doubt
that there would be insect and disease problems. The farmer would have
a plan to deal with these as they arose. Remember that these are
6-month crops that are within easy reach. Plantations, now that's
another problem. How do you control problems in a crop that is going
to occupy the ground for 40-80 years and is planned to be almost
We have been seeing problems in plantations for years here--when
the black spruce stand turns brown from a sawfly infestation, it is a
very visible reminder of our fallibility. While the province has
initiated a new program that is heading in the right direction, a huge
majority of funding goes into conifer plantations.
Instead of creating plantations, we have a real opportunity to
restore the native Acadian forest. True, this will take time, but it
will also be an effort that brings great reward. We can continue the
large-scale degradation that has taken place since Europeans first set
foot on this Island. Or we can create healthy, diverse forest systems
that provide a huge array of products, and also serve many other
valuable roles--cleaning air, purifying water, protecting streams,
storing carbon, housing wildlife and providing places for recreation.
Restoration should be seen as a tool for adding seed plants to an
area. Upland forests that have been repeatedly clearcut might be
lacking in hemlock or white pine. Old-field white spruce stands create
excellent opportunities to add high value species and introduce rarer
plants. Though initially expensive, if the idea of "seeding"
is kept in mind, restoration is actually quite affordable. What you
successfully plant should later spread by natural methods and the
large-scale costs diminish significantly. At Macphail Woods, the young
yellow birch, white ash and striped maple trees we planted are already
producing seed, as are the shrubs that we have added to improve
biodiversity and food supply.
One way that woodlot owners can be involved in this restoration is
by working on their own property, or a community watershed project. My
own farm has some mixed hardwood stands in relatively good health and
fields that have grown up predominantly in white spruce. My partner
and I have been harvesting firewood in small blocks, removing severely
cankered beech, and poorly shaped red maple. These areas are now
opportunities to plant white pine, yellow birch, hemlock, or other
late-successional species, which we embrace with gusto. The spruce
will be harvested in small blocks, where we will again look at
planting with those species and others such as white ash and red oak.
In both areas, we will allow trees to get old, die and fall to the
ground. The importance of wildlife trees is deeply ingrained in our
style of forest management. In this way, we hope to restore a small
piece of the original Acadian forest.
Whether restoring a forest, planting a windbreak, or naturalizing a
lawn, native plants are good choices--they have adapted to the
climatic conditions of the area and serve a variety of functions
within the ecosystem. Most are proven performers--hardy, fitting into
a wide variety of habitats, valuable to wildlife, useful for
stabilizing stream banks and/or controlling soil erosion. We are
building whole landscape designs around hemlock, eastern white cedar,
witch hazel, serviceberry, red oak, bay, red osier dogwood and many
other native plants that are as beautiful as any imports.
A good starting point to restoring biodiversity is to carefully
match the plant to the site. It makes little sense to plant a
sun-loving tree in the shade or a shrub that will not tolerate wet
feet along a stream. If you use common sense and caution when planning
and planting, you won't go too far wrong.