“We have now developed tools that ensure that all harvest treatments are aligned with the nature-based requirements of Nova Scotia’s lands.” – Statement under Goal 13 in the Five-year Progress Report on the 2011-2020 Natural Resources Strategy released Aug 16, 2016 by NSDNR.
I wish it were true, but I don’t buy it. Here’s why.
Statements by NSDNR are highlighted by brown text.
Four levels will characterize forest management intensities:
– forest conservation reserves;
– extensively managed forests;
– intensively managed forests; and
– forest conversions.
From Nova Scotia’s Code of Forest Practice (Aug 2012)
Comment: Although not explicitly stated as such, this directive, excluding forest conversions which take land out of forestry, involves the application of “triad zoning” to the overall management of NS forests.
–>Key question #1:
What percentage of Nova Scotia’s forested lands does NSDNR envisage in each of the three forest management categories (conservation reserves, extensively managed, intensively managed)?
Here is why that percentage important: in various renditions of triad zoning, extensive forest management is the largest percentage, typically 50% or higher; reserves and intensive blocks are embedded in an extensively managed landscape. If we are following conventions from which the concepts of “management levels” were drawn, we would be simulating natural disturbance regimes on 50% or more of the harvested landscape. So what are the disturbance regimes?
FREQUENT & INFREQUENT STAND DISTURBANCE
From Nova Scotia’s Code of Forest Practice (Aug 2012):
1.1.5 Extensive forest lands will be managed for resource production using techniques that mimic natural disturbances and sustain natural ecosystem structure and function. Management strategies will be based on the provincial Forest Ecosystem Classification (FEC).
–>Key question #2:
Of the lands that NSDNR envisages belong in the Extensive Management category, what percentage is subject naturally to Frequent Stand Initiating Disturbance Regimes and what percentage to Infrequent Stand Initiating Disturbance Regimes?
The answer according to NSDNR:
Infrequent and/or gap disturbance regimes are dominant on 51% of the landbase and develop forest associations typical of the Acadian Forest. These forests of red spruce, hemlock, white pine, sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch originate or establish from successional processes started by an infrequent or rare stand initiating disturbance. They are maintained as uneven-aged forests by gap disturbances in the canopy until the next stand initiating disturbance. Frequent disturbance regimes are dominant on 43% of the landbase and develop forest associations of balsam fir, black spruce, white spruce, jack pine, red pine, white pine, white birch, and red maple. Whether due to edaphic site conditions or disturbances (fire, insects, wind) these forests are predominantly even-aged and unlikely to succeed to longer-lived late successional associations of the Acadian Forest. The remaining six per cent of the landbase has edaphic site conditions that severely limit tree growth and develop the open seral vegetation communities associated with barrens, sparsely treed bogs and swamps, rockland, and severely exposed sites.
– Mapping Nova Scotia’s Natural Disturbance Regimes
Report FOR 2008-5 Ecosystem Management Group
Forestry Division, Truro, Nova Scotia
Thus, by the logic of NSDNR, harvesting systems that simulate Frequent Disturbance Regimes, i.e. clearcutting, would be appropriate on 43% of the landbase, while harvesting systems that simulate Infrequent and/or Gap Disturbance Regimes would be appropriate on 51% of the landbase. It’s partly on this basis that the goal of a 50% reduction in clearcutting was rationalized:
Currently, 96 per cent of all forested lands are harvested by clearcutting. An ecosystem-based analysis of the province’s forests showed that about 50 per cent of these lands are suited for uneven-aged management, or non-clearcutting. The policy framework set a target for reducing clearcutting to no more than 50 per cent of all harvests. The target, to be phased in over five years, will be set in regulation. – p 42 in The Path We Share A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia 2011–2020
Yet NSDNR has backed away from defining a percentage figure for clearcuts and most harvests continue to be clearcuts while the province claims that “all harvest treatments are aligned with the nature-based requirements of Nova Scotia’s lands”.
HOW SOUND IS THE SCIENCE UNDERLYING NSDNR ESTIMATES OF THE PROPORTION OF THE LANDBASE DOMINATED BY FREQUENT DISTURBANCE REGIMES?
On top of the considerations above that indicate there is an over-representation of even-aged management compared to NSDNR’s estimates of the percentage of Frequent Disturbance Regimes on the Nova Scotian landscape, it is unlikely that NSDNR’s estimate of that percentage (43%) would stand up to peer review. That estimate is given in a NSDNR 2008 document Mapping Nova Scotia’s Natural Disturbance Regimes). This document has not been subject to a rigorous, independent external review as would occur, for example, if it were submitted for publication in a reputable scientific journal.
An internal review of an earlier version of the document revealed by a FOIPOP concluded:
The conclusion that nearly 50% of our provincial forested landscape is prone to frequent stand initiating disturbances is very questionable. – DNR_internal_critique “Obtained through Freedom of Information Request to NSDNR, July, 2006” Accessed at www.novascotiaforests.ca, 2 Dec, 2013
An external review conducted by two academics from Maine and five from Nova Scotia on the 2007 version of this document is reported in Appendix A of a 2012 document “Review of Stora Enso Port Hawkesbury’s Forest Management Practices in the Context of Forest Stewardship Council Certification“. It raises many questions about the 2007 document, most of them not addressed in the final 2008 document, e.g. it notes:
It seems that many of the references cited, or the way in which they are used, are out of context and potentially misleading. There is on overall impression of credible arguments not being made, and of inappropriate (or lacking) citations in support of key assertions. It is apparent that a limited portion of the literature is being mined to support a view that it is appropriate, from a management perspective, to largely ignore the ecological conditions of the past – particularly in terms of dominant forest types and the environmental dynamics and other factors that allowed them to self-organize. This is especially the case of forest-community types dominated by relatively tolerant, late-successional species of trees, and of the role of gap-phase microdisturbance as an important factor affecting older stands. The approach used is not credible.
In short, NSDNR is vague about its application of Triad Zoning to management of Nova Scotia forests and is clearly not adhering to conventions associated with this approach. Clearcutting still accounts for a much larger proportion of harvests – 86% of crown lands in 2014 – than the proportion of the landscape naturally subject to Frequent Stand Initiating Disturbances, even by their own inflated estimate of that proportion (43%).
The claim that “that all harvest treatments are aligned with the nature-based requirements of Nova Scotia’s lands” is simply not credible.
- Impacts of forestry in Nova Scotia on conservation of biodiversity: Concerns and Questions
A Submission to Nova Scota Department of Natural Resources From the Conservation Committee of the Halifax Field Naturalists, April 26, 2017. “In this document, we express our understanding or impressions of and raise specific questions related to the nature and extent of clearcutting/even-aged management in Nova Scotia, the policies, the science underlying those policies and some of the impacts on biodiversity.” The concerns and questions focus on three areas:
– Landscape level impacts of forestry practices on biodiversity
– Mitigating and adapting to climate change
– Soil acidification and losses of calcium
- Reviews and Comments on Neily, P.D.et al, 2007. Forest disturbance ecology in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (draft).
On EAC Website. Includes internal review cited above. The 2007 version differed little from the final version (i.e. there was little response to the reviews).
- Review of Stora Enso Port Hawkesbury’s Forest Management Practices in the Context of Forest Stewardship Council Certification
Ecology Action Center, 2007. Read pp 4-7 for a summary of the internal reviews cited above.
- Natural disturbance regimes in northeastern North America—evaluating silvicultural systems using natural scales and frequencies
Robert S Seymour et al. 2002. Forest Ecology and Management 155: 357–36. “Many scientists and foresters have begun to embrace an ecological, natural disturbance paradigm for management, but lack specific guidance on how to design systems in ways that are in harmony with natural patterns. To provide such guidance, we conducted a comprehensive literature survey of northeastern disturbances, emphasizing papers that studied late-successional, undisturbed, or presettlement forests…Widespread application of single-cohort silviculture on rotations of under 100 years thus creates a landscape that has no natural precedent for the types of forests we reviewed. Management that deliberately produces such stands thus cannot claim to be emulating natural disturbances, as in the common industrial situation where multiple, short rotations are planned, or where such stands dominate the landscape. Furthermore, basing regeneration rates on natural disturbance frequencies alone (e.g. 1% per year), without accounting for the scale of the disturbance, greatly oversimplifies the natural pattern where landscape-level, stand-replacing disturbances are much rarer than small, within-stand patches. If we ignore this relationship between space and time, then management activities might have negative consequences on landscape structure.[Example cited]…The long-term consequence is an unnatural landscape that becomes homogenized in both time and space.”
This key paper on forest disturbance in the NE is not cited in NSDNR’s Mapping Nova Scotia’s Natural Disturbance Regimes Report FOR 2008-5
- How much forestry in Nova Scotia maintains mixed, multi-aged Acadian forest?
Post, Jan 23, 2017. Not much. 8.3% in 2014
- What’s a clearcut and what’s not a clearcut in Nova Scotia?
Post, Jan 23, 2017. Under the federal forestry classification, all cutting for even-aged management is classified as clearcut, not in Nova Scotia.
- Has clearcutting on Crown land in Nova Scotia increased or decreased?
Post, Jan 22, 2017. Clearcutting has increased in total area, while the % clearcut (versus partial cut) has declined. NSDNR likes to mention the latter, not the former.
- South Shore Rossignol, St. Margarets Bay, North Mountain Forest Management Plan (Aug 2015)
Illustrates decisions based on Frequent Disturbance assumption.
- Triad Zoning
Page on this website
- Impacts of forestry in Nova Scotia on conservation of biodiversity: Concerns and Questions
A Submission to Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources From the Conservation Committee of the Halifax Field Naturalists Apr 19, 2017
- Restoring the Health of Nova Scotia’s Forests
A panel of expertise report on forests by Bob Bancroft and Donna Crossland to the steering panel for the Nova Scotia Natural Resources Strategy 2010 process. See in particular pages 1-11 for comments on NSDNR’s interpretation of natural disturbance regimes and its impact on the stateb of our forests. This report was widely applauded, the Steering Panel adopted most of their recommendations, and then NDP Minister of Natural Resources John MacDonell promised fundamental change. Within 6 months, however, Premier Dexter shifted MacDonell to another Dept. and the Bancroft/Crossland Report was tacitly shelved in favour of an alternative, industrial forestry-oriented Report by Jon Porter. Four years later the new Liberal government hired Porter as the executive director of the NSDNR’s renewable resources branch. Regardless, this report still says a lot about the current state of our forests (just add 6 more years of extensive clearcutting and the “biomess”) and where we should be headed. Also see the Research Addendum.
- Nova Scotia’s Fiery Past: Why early wildfires ignited by our ancestors should not justify modern clearcutting practices
Guest post by Donna Crossland on Medway Community Forest website, Sep. 4, 2015. “The harvest practice of clearcutting more closely mimics a stand-replacement wildfire event (although the effects are not identical), while partial harvests emulate small blow downs or tree mortality caused by insects or diseases. Thus you can see why it is important to accurately define the natural disturbance dynamics that characterize Acadian forests.”
- Push reset button on N.S. forestry policy
Dale Smith in CH, Jul 8, 2016. “There is an old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees, in essence that details can obscure the big picture…”
- Diversity may be forestry’s future
CH, 2012. Reporter Aaron Beswick interviewed Wade Prest. “For the first time in 50 years, we have an opportunity to do something different with our forests,” said Wade Prest while walking his Mooseland woodlot in July , “But it would take an awful lot of willpower and foresight at the political level to change our course… “The Department of Natural Resources has been trying to force boreal forest conditions upon our woodlands to provide softwood for pulp and paper needs,” said Prest, who began working at a sawmill at 12 years of age. But what we had here and could have here again is the Acadian forest, a more complicated mixture of long-lived softwoods and hardwoods that in the long run could provide for a healthier sawmilling industry and habitat for wildlife at the same time.”
- What lichens and lichenologists can and sometimes cannot tell us
Post on this website. “…the case for expanding the protective zone around boreal felt lichen in Nova Scotia from 100 to 500 meters, which NSDNR apparently opposes, is much better supported by peer reviewed, published scientific research than the case for clearcutting a large proportion of Nova Scotia forests, which NSDNR advocates.”