Determining the timespan and ecological conditions necessary for afforested environments to support older-growth understorey communities
Mineral aggregate production is essential to Canada’s economy and infrastructure but environmental concerns threaten to impede this until ecological impacts are shown to be mitigated by off-site replication of affected ecosystems including heritage hardwood forests. A large-scale comparative study was recently initiated to determine whether conventional forestry can produce plantations that are ecologically equivalent to natural forests. While some ecological sampling has already occurred at 5 heritage forests and 36 plantations varying in age, species planted, and stand-thinning, other features of old-growth forests including coarse woody debris and pit-mound topography must still be assessed. Similarly, while tracking native herbs experimentally transplanted from reference forests to plantations has generated novel insights into forest-plantation equivalence, confidence in these will skyrocket if survival and reproduction can be monitored over three years rather than just one.