Ecosystem Restoration project is being used to train a new generation of scientists
September 21st, 2023
We have just repurposed all those thinned hectares just adjacent to the College of the Rockies (COTR). A 36 hectare section of land, split in ownership between the college and the crown, was thinned in 2018. It was to reduce the wildfire risk to the college, and the Baker Road and Park Royal subdivisions. The open forest also provides large amounts of forage for deer and habitat for birds and mammals ever since. But now the stands are being used to train COTR students in the process of science.
Since the stand was thinned Randy Harris, a Director with the Cranbrook Community Forest Society and a contractor with the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration program, has been leading environmental science students from COTR on tours of this thinned stand. The topics discussed range from mycorrhizal fungus, fire ecology, fuel management, invasive plant management, forest harvesting and under story responses to thinning, This year, the fourth tour, 18 students of COTR’s ENSC 101 class received new instructions from their instructor Andrena Heigh. The tour usually ends with a lab where the students measure tree rings cut from the thinned areas to see if thinning increases tree growth. But this year the students were asked to come up with a study based on the conditions of the stand; they are to make a hypothesis and make measures in the forest to confirm or deny the theory. Examples of the theories could be:
· The forest was thinned to five different densities. Do any of the densities grow grass better than the unthinned control stands?
· The logger CHIL logging constructed roads out of snow and did not touch the soil. Does the vegetation on these roads grow the same as adjacent unroaded forest?
· CHIL logging also built landings out of snow again without soil disturbance. They were grass seeded but compare the vegetation on the landing to the surrounding forest to see if there is a difference.
This use of the thinned areas is of great interest to the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society and the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration program. This 34 hectare thinning project was thinned in this multi condition fashion so later monitoring could indicate what stocking creates the best effect on trees and understory species; we can improve our treatments. The Cranbrook Community Forest Society not only manages the recreation trails and facilities in the Community Forest but they also have a mandate for education and interpretation of the ecosystem and forest management; this use of the thinned area for science training fits exactly in this goal. All three organizations certainly hope that College of the Rockies continue their studies here, it meets the goals of all four partners on this site.