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Is there a link between large forest fires and the increasing area of logged forests and very young regrowth in BC?

David Broadland

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AFTER RESEARCHING AND WRITING The forest-industrial complex's Molotov clearcuts (FOCUS Magazine March-April 2020) I realized the question posed above needs to be more thoroughly explored in public. I was surprised that I could not find a single reference to scientific research that has been conducted by BC forest scientists on this question. Why not? It's possible such research has been done, but if it has, it's very well hidden.

Through this forum FOCUS hopes to stimulate the provincial government to search for truth about this question. The exponential increase in emissions from wildfires may be the final straw that breaks the back of clearcut logging in BC. Or maybe there's no significant connection at all. What do you know that can help us get to the truth about this issue? If you are a forest scientist with knowledge about the fire-disturbance dynamic, please join in. Or, contact me privately at focuspublish@shaw.ca.

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Compelling evidence logging native forests has worsened Australian bushfires, scientists warn

The Guardian reports today that Australian scientists David Lindenmayer, Robert Kooyman, Chris Taylor, Michelle Ward and James Watson, in a comment piece in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, have called for “a clearer discussion about how land management and forestry practices contribute to fire risk.”

The Guardian reports: 

"In the comment piece, the scientists say much of the conversation in the aftermath of the spring and summer bushfires had rightly focused on climate change, but the impact of land management and forestry on fire risk was often neglected in these discussions.

They highlight this as a concern because land management policy was 'well within the control of Australians' and the fires had been used by some sectors of the industry to call for increased logging in some areas.

The paper says industry data showed that some 161m cubic metres of native forest was logged in the period from 1996 to 2018.

'Beyond the direct and immediate impacts on biodiversity of disturbance and proximity to disturbed forest, there is compelling evidence that Australia’s historical and contemporary logging regimes have made many Australian forests more fire prone and contributed to increased fire severity and flammability,' the scientists write.

This occurs because logging leaves debris at ground level that increases the fuel load in logged forests. It also changes forest composition and leaves these areas of forest both hotter and drier, they say."

By comparison, in BC, nearly 60 million cubic metres of logs are taken out of forests every year. What took Australian loggers 22 years to cut down, BC's forest industry is doing in less than three years. If 161 million cubic metres over 22 years creates increased fire risk, what does 180 million cubic metres every 3 years create?

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Thank you for raising awareness and inviting discussion about this growing danger. Last June, Sierra Club BC and Herb Hammond called for a “climate impact test” for logging plans. Clearcuts currently in preparation or carried out across B.C. will increase emissions and exacerbate the climate emergency. Every hectare of newly clearcut forest leaves communities more vulnerable to flooding, wildfires and loss of clean water. Logging plans must be adjusted or cancelled as needed to address the climate emergency https://sierraclub.bc.ca/bc-must-declare-a-forest-and-climate-emergency/


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In the other forests forum James Steidle has posted a comment about the effect on the flammability of forest stands of taking out deciduous species in order to enhance growth of conifers. This is another example of how current forestry practices are contributing to larger, more aggressive fires.

Steidel wrote a piece in the Province about this in 2019. He noted, “Now the problem, to anyone who studies fire dynamics of these two different forest types, should be immediately apparent. The Conifer-dominated forest type we are actively encouraging, is highly flammable, while the Broadleaf Aspen forest type we are actively eliminating, is incredibly fire resistant. With a few caveats, the conclusion is undeniable. According to a 2001 study by Steve Cummings et al, pine forests are 8.4 times more likely to burn compared to deciduous Aspen forests based on historical data.” 

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