Alberta’s forests have evolved over millions of years, and members of the Alberta Forest Products Association’s (AFPA) work to ensure they’ll remain vibrant and beautiful in perpetuity.
“People often think that since forestry is such a big industry in Alberta, we must be losing a lot of our forests to harvesting,” says Aspen Dudzic, director of communications for AFPA. “But the industry actually plants three trees for every one we harvest, and that’s not to raise trees as a cash crop. The purpose of reforestation is to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem health, maximize carbon capture and create the kind of forests where future generations will be able to camp, hike, forage and fish.”
By tree standards, Alberta’s native tree species have fairly short lifespans and the ecosystems around them depend on cycles of disturbance and regrowth. Alberta is a global leader in sustainable forest management, and we harvest forests in a way that mimics their natural lifecycles. Gone are the days of indiscriminate clear cutting — now, sustainable forest management means leaving irregular-shaped “retention patches” that emulate how a natural disturbance might affect the landscape, including a “jump and skip” pattern that leaves patches of mature forest in a harvested stand to maintain an age balance of trees in the area.
“It creates more of what’s called an edge habitat,” Dudzic explains. “It’s the space between where a mature forest and a very young forest meet and creates opportunity for different shrubs or berry bushes to grow, which is an important food source for species like grizzly bears.”
But responsible forest management means more than maintaining mature ecosystems, even though many people think mature trees are best when it comes to carbon sequestration. Younger trees sequester carbon at faster rates (like growing teenagers “sequestering” all the food from the fridge), and Dudzic says that each stage of a forest’s lifecycle matters to creatures of all kinds. “What’s been really powerful is learning about what’s valuable, and what’s important, special and unique about all those other stages — when we look at a forest with very young trees growing, that provides an important habitat for species like moose, foxes and grizzly bears.”
Two years ago, AFPA created a virtual reality tour narrated by Nathan Fillion that shows the value of every stage in a forest’s lifecycle. And AFPA continues to highlight how its members provide sustainable products and jobs while adapting to an ever-changing environment.
AFPA is also dispelling the misconception that when forestry companies regenerate a forest, they try to grow what’s cheapest, fastest and will provide the most profit. “That couldn’t be farther from the case. We have an obligation to bring back the same forest that was there before — if it’s a deciduous forest that was harvested, it’s a deciduous forest that’s coming back.”
It all falls under the overarching 200-year plan, which is a detailed forest management plan that requires forest managers to adopt a multi-generational perspective. “I was just interviewing a researcher who works on regeneration and land reclamation,” Dudzic says. “And she shared with me this fun perspective about how the forests she’s been monitoring and studying will never be harvested in her lifetime. And how that’s an acknowledgment from the industry that we’re not growing forests for us, we’re growing them for future generations.”
This content was supplied by the advertiser for commercial purposes. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Edify staff.