Determining the timespan and ecological conditions necessary for afforested environments to support older-growth understorey communities Year Two
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.