(This section was done in a collaborative group work. Other contributors are Amanda Bulmer, Kiana Bridges, and Mengjia Ding.)
New Forest Practices Model
As concerned members of the conservationist community, we suggest putting forward a New Forest Practices Model (NFPM). The goal of the NFPM is to help lower the ecological footprint caused by the effects of forest harvesting on Algonquin Provincial Park’s biodiversity, which in turn would protect the traditional lands of the Algonquin First Nations. In an effort to make our proposed model reasonable and realistic, we have carefully taken into consideration the values and needs of the many stakeholders in a collaborative effort to lower the ecological footprint of Algonquin Park in the future. The effects of forestry in the Park are followed by a combination of scientific uncertainty and a conflict in values, making it a wicked problem. Our proposed model attempts to balance the integrity of the Park while maintaining economic stability. It focuses on hard-to-solve issues such as constantly changing policies, forestry practices, and the byproducts of forest harvesting such as it’s accompanied logging roads and hydrological impacts. The New Forest Practices Model suggests the destruction and rehabilitation of abandoned logging roads, more sustainable forestry practices, a minimization of hydrological impacts, and various policy amendments all in an amalgamated effort attempting to lower the ecological footprint of Algonquin Provincial Park.
In an effort to save jobs and maintain Ontario’s GDP, our proposed NFPM has chosen to allow for the sustainable-logging to continue in the park. The techniques used in Algonquin Park’s forest harvesting are some of the most closely researched, cutting-edge, and sustainable methods that have been observed in the forestry industry up-to-date. The procedures used are said to mimic nature’s natural cycle of survival of the fittest (Algonquin Eco Watch, 2010). The AFA claims that they only harvest those trees that pose an immediate risk to humans, or those that would naturally be subjected to natural effects such as windstorms or lightning (2010). This implies that the direct impacts of forestry in the Park are not the immediate cause for the destruction of the ecosystem’s biodiversity. Rather that the indirect negative effects of logging such as roads are to blame.
Algonquin Park contains more than 2000 km of road purely designated for logging (Zanussi, 2009). After an area has been logged, the roads are abandoned and are left as the destructive symbols of human impact. The damage caused by these abandoned logging roads includes an unstable and thinning soil, and also the depletion of nutrient-dense topsoil that allows for the growth of flora, including the newly planted tree seedlings.
Our proposed NFPM suggests the permanent biotransformation of abandoned logging roads. It is a quick and simple solution to improve the current situation and hopefully undo some of the damage. The biotransformation includes placing hog-fuel from the forest floor (bark and wood chips) onto the logging roads in combination with decomposition-aiding agents such as fungi, to help stimulate the new growth of forest flora. Abandoned logging roads also cause a break in the hydrological cycle, which creates excess runoff water that leads to soil erosion, removal of life-sustaining topsoils, and downstream water sedimentation and siltation (Ruby, 2006). The wood chips placed on the logging roads would not only accelerate decomposition but they would also serve as a filter helping to reduce sedimentation of watersheds downstream. Downfalls to this suggestion include the possible adaptation of the surrounding ecology to the current situation. By covering up the roads with wood chips, we might be destroying preexisting new-growth. Not only would cleaning up the forest floor benefit the rehabilitation of the abandoned logging roads, but also it may prevent forest fires from the accumulation of hog-fuel in the future.
The NFPM also recommends minimal construction of new logging roads by implementing more sustainable forestry practices. This includes the enforcement of designated boundaries for timber production, including the expansion of protected areas and the banning of old growth forest deforestation. A settlement would have to be made with the AFA because they are planning an expansion of the current logging roads and the addition of new ones (Algonquin Provincial Park, 2015). The goal of the NFPM would be to prevent logging in new areas to maintain the biodiversity and wellbeing of the forest. Currently the AFA is planting a selection of trees that are homogenous and cater to what sells best on the market (Algonquin Eco Watch, 2010). A more diverse selection of native trees would be beneficial to species at risk and should be planted to help boost the forest’s biodiversity. With today’s modern technology, tools such as GIS can be used to assist in the planning of these decisions. Setbacks of decreasing the area in which tree harvesting takes place might be the adaptation of species who could potentially suffer because the Park forest is now able to grow in a natural way.
Old Growth Forest
We recommend expansion of protected zones, while taking into consideration the impact on current and future wood supply for the forest industry (OP & AFA, 2009). These expansion zones would be chosen based on their contribution to the park’s values, some of which include ecological representation, connectivity between core areas and protecting cultural heritage in addition to impacts on wood supply to mills (OP & AFA, 2009). It is important to add old growth forests in the selection of these protection zones (OP & AFA, 2009). Figure 3 shows that, a significant portion of old growth forests have already been logged in the past and are not protected today. These forests offer unique ecosystem services; as a result, in their absence we would lose species of flora and fauna (Frank et al., 2011). Additionally, old growth forests provide an important reference point for ecological research (Frank et al., 2011).
What differentiates old growth forest from those in the earlier stages of succession is the high diversity of environmental conditions such as microclimates as well as structural elements. The spatiotemporal stability of the microclimates over long time-scales also differentiates old growth forests from young forests (Frank et al., 2011). The complex structure of old growth forests is significant mainly because it provides a wider range of niches available to various species (Frank et al., 2011). The heterogeneity of environmental conditions (or microclimates) nourishes different species with different levels of temperature, light and humidity (Frank et al., 2011). Furthermore, temporal stability, which allows healthy speciation, often disappears when forest is destroyed or heavily altered as a result of human disturbances (Frank et al., 2011). Human impact is not completely reversible (Frank et al., 2011). This is because succession of forests and recolonization of habitat is an extremely slow process dependent on stable environmental conditions (Frank et al., 2011). Although clear-cut logging is extremely harmful to the ecosystems, logging methods that mimic natural disturbances would not damage the environment (Frank et al., 2011).
Aquatic ecosystems, in addition to terrestrial, partake in shaping the environment. One of most important ecological services of forests is a sustainable and high quality water supply (Jones et al., 2009). The combination of roads and unsystematic logging can degrade water quality and increase the probability of flooding (Jones et al., 2009). Therefore, protection zones in Algonquin Park should expand to preserve lakes, waterways as well as canoe routes of the park (OP & AFA, 2009). All the water bodies contribute to value of the park in many ways such as enhancing the ecosystems, protecting cultural heritage values, protecting species at risk as well as ecological integrity (OP & AFA, 2009). Specifically, waterways to lake Opeongo and other canoe routes provide recreational and fisheries values(OP & AFA, 2009). In terms of ecological integrity, one particularly significant species at risk in waters of Algonquin Park is Brook Trout, which should be protected by expansion of protection zones and education of visitors (OP & AFA, 2009).
Algonquin Park provides habitat to a high concentration of self-sustaining Brook Trout (OP & AFA, 2009). Brook Trout is on the verge of being listed as an endangered species. It is placed in the higher levels of the food chain in its ecosystem; therefore, its disappearance would harm more species in lower levels than the disappearance of a lower level species would (Cheever & Simon, 2009). Our NFPM suggest implementing “Areas of Concern” or “AOC” around all brook trout lakes in the park (OP & AFA, 2009). The AOC’s restrict construction or reconstruction of roads as well as banning new aggregate pits in the area (OP & AFA, 2009). Moreover, logging in these areas have restrictions to ensure a healthy water ecosystem (OP & AFA, 2009).
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Overview of old growth, logging, and protected zones in Algonquin Park. (2015, October 10). Ancient Forests. Retrieved from http://www.ancientforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/algonquin.jpg