Fish-Forestry Interaction Research

Issues arising from interactions between fish and forest resource values have been a major concern to resource managers and scientists for over 50 years in British Columbia.

Studies

To date, six major studies have been carried out in B.C to document fish-forestry interactions. Results of these projects generally fall into one or more of three broad categories of forestry-related effects on watersheds, aquatic habitats, and fish:

  • Physical habitat-structure alterations
  • Water temperature-related shifts (thermal effects)
  • Trophic responses (fish food resources, growth)
     

The Carnation Creek fish-forestry project was initiated on the west coast of British Columbia in 1970 and continues to this day. The project was established because of the lack of information generated in B.C.on the effects of forest harvesting on fish populations. Carnation Creek uses a case-study design, meaning all research was conducted within this watershed without external controls. Responses to forest practices were determined by monitoring physical and biological response variables before and after logging. The initial objectives of the study were:
 

  1. To learn about natural biological and physical processes in watersheds
  2. To determine how various forestry practices altered these processes
  3. To employ the results to make reasonable and useful decisions on land use practices and fish population management

The results of this project have made major contributions to B.C. forestry legislation, regulations, and guidelines.

Around the same time that the Carnation Creek project was implemented, the Slim-Tumuch fish-forestry project was initiated in the B.C. interior, east of Prince George. This project ran from 1971 to 1975. The objectives of this study were to:

  • Evaluate the effects of logging on water quality in the interior region
  • Evaluate the effects of logging on fish populations & habitat in the interior region
  • Compare the effects to the results of coastal fish-forestry projects

The study was based on a synoptic (comparative) survey, meaning logged streams were compared to nearby forested streams.

In the late 1970s, fish-forestry interaction issues were becoming increasingly tense in steep terrain where hillslope stability was a problem. These issues were initially addressed on the Queen Charlotte Islands (QCI) fish-forestry project, starting in 1978. The QCI project was based on a synoptic design that included over 30 watersheds with different logging histories.

The Stuart-Takla fish-forestry project began in 1991 and focused on issues important to the northern interior. Three watersheds were intensively monitored for 10 years before logging was planned for two of the watersheds, leaving the third as an experimental control.

This project was suspended in 2001 due to the availability of funds and an inability to reconcile logging plans in watersheds with highly valued sockeye salmon populations. Given the availability of funds, there is interest in returning to these sites to assess changes in riparian function and channel and fish habitat conditions after the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation of recent years.

Concerns were raised province-wide about the size and effectiveness of riparian buffers in protecting fish habitat, particularly along small streams less than 1.5 m wide. A novel approach was developed and implemented experimentally to form the core of the Prince George Small Streams Project in the Prince George forest district.

Initiated in 2002, this project tested whether the provincial district policy was effective in supporting the ecological attributes necessary for healthy fish habitat in small streams.

In the early 1970s, a spruce bark beetle outbreak occurred in the Bowron River watershed east of Prince George. Large-scale timber salvage-harvesting operations were undertaken to control the spread of the beetle and to recover economic value from infested timber before it burned or decayed.

In 2007, the Bowron River watershed study was initiated to identify forest management activities that place streams and their riparian areas at risk. The project also identified how streams recover following extensive salvage harvesting. The Bowron River study involved monitoring 35 streams that had undergone large-scale logging within their watersheds and riparian zones to determine present levels of stream ecologic function more than 25 years after harvesting.

This project is also being used to forecast the potential long-term impacts of today's mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation and the consequent large-scale salvage operations currently being conducted, and to propose best management practices to protect the ecological integrity of small streams in MPB-infested areas.

 

Coastal Fisheries Forestry Guidelines

Coastal Fisheries Forestry Guidelines were developed in 1980s to help forest companies and regulatory agencies integrate the needs of coastal fisheries resources with those of forest harvest and silviculture activities. The Coastal Fisheries Forestry Guidelines guided forestry practices in coastal forest districts until they were replaced by B.C.'s Forest Practices Code, which in turn was replaced by the current Forest & Range Practices Act.

Training

Training and instructional materials for the Coastal Fisheries Forestry Guidelines:

Posters

Hand-drawn posters illustrating proper forest stream management regimes: