Canadian Forest Service Publications

Development and wildfire dynamics of dry coastal temperate forests, BC, Canada. 2022. Brown, K.J.; Hebda, N.J.; Hebda, R.J.; Fitton, R.; Trofymow, J.A.; Conder, N. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 52(10):1320-1333.

Year: 2022

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 41081

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2022-0020

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Abstract

The vegetation and fire history at the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) and Coastal Western Hemlock (CWH) boundary on eastcentral Vancouver Island was reconstructed. A basal non-arboreal assemblage at the most inland site likely represents an open parkland community during the cold early late-glacial interval. Widespread Pinus woodland followed under cold, dry climate, yielding to closed-canopy mixed conifer forest as climate moistened. While fire disturbance was initially rare, it increased in the late-glacial mixed conifer forest. In the early-Holocene, dry coastal temperate forest replaced the mixed-conifer assemblage. Fire disturbance was widespread, characterized by frequent, possibly lower severity burns. These CDF-like forests expanded northward and westward under warm, dry conditions, attaining maximum extent 9500 – 10 500 calendar years before present, retreating thereafter towards the modern CDF–CWH boundary, which established ∼6000 years ago as climate moistened. Quercus garryana communities were scattered along the coast at this time, maintained by surface fire. Throughout the remainder of the record, the forest canopy closed as modern forests developed and a mixed-severity fire regime developed. The extended early-Holocene range of CDF-like forest suggests that the existing CWHxm biogeoclimatic subzone may be replaced by CDF stands with climate change.

Plain Language Summary

The vegetation and fire history at the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) and Coastal Western Hemlock (CWH) biogeoclimatic zone boundary on east-central Vancouver Island was examined from four lake sediment records, including one site that serves as municipal water supply. The records show that the vegetation has changed through time is response to large scale changes in climate. The records also show that dry temperate forest was generally widespread from ca. 6000-11,700 years ago, with CDFmm-like vegetation attaining its greatest extent between 9500-10,500 years ago when climate was warm and dry, and fire disturbance frequent. Such past changes suggest that future warming and drying will expose the CWHxm subzone to CDF range expansion.