Canadian Forest Service Publications

Characterization of old "wet boreal" forests, with an example from Newfoundland. 2003. Thompson, I.D.; Larson, D.J.; Montevecchi, W.A. Environmental Reviews 11: S23-S46.

Year: 2003

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 24386

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


Wet boreal forests occur primarily in Atlantic Canada especially in Newfoundland, but examples are also found in Quebec and the northeastern U.S.A. These forests are dominated by balsam fir (Abies balsamea), which is susceptible to fire but flourishes in wetter environments where fire is absent. The major stand disturbances are caused by insects, primarily spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) and hemlock looper (Lambdina fiscellaria), followed by root rots and blowdown. Stands in Newfoundland were characterized by large amounts of dead standing and fallen wood, as a result of self-thinning processes and insect attacks. A comparison of 40-, 60-, and 80-year-old forests in Newfoundland indicated that the oldest stage of balsam fir forests had a distinctly different structure, including more large dead and fallen wood, a more irregular canopy including gaps, a more diverse ground flora, more moss ground cover, a more variable tree height, taller snags, fewer white birch snags, and fewer deciduous small trees. These differences were reflected in various plant and animal faunas that were distinct in the old forest including: flowering plants, beetles, Collembola, oribatid mites, mammals, and birds. Several species of plants and animals were only found in the oldest forest stands, including a high percentage among the arthropods. Suggested indicator species at the stand level include black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus) and marten (Martes americana). Logging results in a larger mean patch size than that caused by natural insect disturbances, possibly affecting dispersal by soil organisms and plants within the new landscape. A portion of the landscape, keyed to species with the largest area requirements to maintain their populations, including marten, black-backed woodpeckers, and (or) boreal owls (Aegolius funereus) could guide the amount of old forest, and individual patch sizes, required across a landscape over time.