Two months in and the first blog. Apologies but Canada is very inspiring and the laptop is less so!
Algonquin Park is big. So big that it would cover most of Cambridge, Norfolk and my home county Suffolk (Figure 1) if only we could commandeer it from the Canadians. The park is 763,555 ha which could fit around 40 Thetford Forests into it (the UK’s largest lowland pine forest). 66% of Ontario is forested (71 million ha) and of this 9% are defined as Parks and Protected areas (6.4 million ha) – where Algonquin Park fits. Akin to our Forestry Commission woodland the park is Crown owned, as is 81% of Ontario’s forests, so only around 10% of Ontario’s forests are privately owned (Government of Ontario, 2017).
Figure 1 – A comparison of Algonquin Park and East Anglia. Thetford forest is the small green patch in the centre of the Algonquin Park boundary in the right-hand map (Mapfrapp, 2017)
When I first saw the park, I was surprised that if it wasn’t for the park signs you wouldn’t even know you’ve entered it (Figure 2). Crown forested land surrounds most of the park. It is an absolute pleasure to be constantly driving alongside rolling forests. It is also fantastic to be working in a healthy forest, beaming with natural regeneration and not decimated by deer browsing as our UK woodlands are.
Figure 2 – Even the signs are big
Around 65% of the park is zoned as available for timber management (RU zone) however harvesting only occurs on approximately 51% of the total park area due to site limitations and other protection measures within the RU zone. The other 35% consists of other protection zoning such as wilderness/nature reserves (Figure 3).
Figure 3 – Algonquin Park Land Use (APP LTF Plan Amendment, 2013)
At the end of the last ice age glacial retreat on the higher ground to the west of the park led to glacial till soil. To the lower lying east of the park, the outwash of extensive river systems has led to a much sandier soil. Having a higher elevation, the west of the park has a wetter and cooler climate. This has led to a climax forest type of predominantly shade tolerant hardwoods because wildfires were less common (Figure 4).
Figure 4 – the main tree species found within the west of the park are: sugar maple (Acer saccharum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia). Softwood species are still present such as eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and white pine (Pinus strobus).
In contrast, the drier and warmer east side of the park has led to a more shade intolerant mix of tree species which has evolved from the presence of wildfires (Figure 5).
Figure 5 – the main tree species found in the east of the park are: white pine, red pine (Pinus resinosa) trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), white birch (Betula papyrifera), and red maple (Acer rubrum). In the lower, wetter areas black spruce (Picea mariana), tamarack (Larix laricina), eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) are also present.
The two main silvicultural systems implemented in the park are both continuous cover forestry systems. With wildfires now suppressed in Algonquin Park forestry provides the ideal opportunity to mimic this natural disturbance. This is undertaken through the even-aged shelterwood system (Figure 6) and is undertaken mostly to the east of the park.
Figure 6 – even aged shelterwood system (Algonquin Forestry Authority, 2017a)
The single tree selection system (Figure 6) mimics natural decline and falling of individual trees within a climax forest type and is found in the hardwoods to the west of the park.
Figure 7 – Single tree selection system (Algonquin Forestry Authority, 2017b)
Tree Marking – ‘follow the paint’
Silviculture Effectiveness Monitoring – or what’s growing where and is it what we want
Timber Markets – pine and hardwoods
Roads, bridges and gravel – the parks infrastructure
Government of Ontario (2017). ‘Forestry Facts’. Available at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/forestry-facts. (Accessed 31st July 2017).
MapFrapp (2017). ‘MAPfrappe’. Available at: http://mapfrappe.com/. (Accessed 31st July 2017).
APP LTF Plan Amendment (2013). ‘JOINT PROPOSAL FOR LIGHTENING THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT OF LOGGING IN ALGONQUIN PARK’. Available at: http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/pdf/lighteningthefootprint_proposal.pdf. (Accessed 31st July 2017).
Algonquin Forestry Authority (2017a). ‘Silvicultural Systems: Even-Aged — Shelterwood’. Available at: http://algonquinforestry.on.ca/policy-planning-sustainable-forest-management-policy/silvicultural-systems-even-aged-shelterwood/. (Accessed 31st July 2017).
Algonquin Forestry Authority (2017b). ‘Silvicultural Systems: Uneven-Aged — Selection’. Available at: http://algonquinforestry.on.ca/policy-planning-sustainable-forest-management-policy/silvicultural-systems-uneven-aged-selection/. (Accessed 31st July 2017).