Power To Be volunteer shares insights into Vancouver Island forest ecosystems

Power To Be recently explored the giants of Vancouver Island’s forest during an exciting new program called Big Tree Day. This was an opportunity to travel with Power To Be to Port Renfrew, to walk amongst the giant trees in Avatar Grove and be amazed by Big Lonely Doug, standing at 66-metres tall and 4-metres wide and in the middle of a quiet clear-cut.

The day was enriched by Marie, one of Power To Be’s many talented volunteers, who shared her knowledge of the forest ecosystem and played an integral role in this recent Big Tree Day. Marie is a forester in training with the Association of BC Forest Professionals and she is currently doing her PhD in Forest Genetics at the University of Victoria. She shared information about the ecosystem we were in and educational and engaging facts about the incredible trees that surrounded us.

Staff, volunteers and participants alike all left the forest with something new they had learned about our local, majestic trees as well as a sense of connection and respect for our old-growth forests.

Did you know British Columbia uses the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) system to identify different zones, sub-zones, variants, etc. in the forest? As Marie shared with us, Vancouver Island has three zones: Coastal Douglas Fir, Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock.

Get to know your trees

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Look for hanging cones with three-pronged bracts; evergreen needles that give the branches a “fluffy,” bottlebrush appearance; thick, furrowed bark on mature trees.

Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)

Look for drooping leader at the top of the tree; irregularly-spaced evergreen needles that are unequal in length and flat on the branch (giving branches a fan-like appearance); scaly bark separated by long furrows.

Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata)

Look for reddish-brown, thin, fibrous bark that can be torn off in long strips; evergreen, scale-like, flattened leaves.

Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

In the spring look for male and female catkins, which are present before leaves; leaves are dark green, ovate/elliptical.

Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

In the spring look for triplet forks at branch tips; leaves are deeply notched with five lobes.

The Coastal Douglas Fir BEC zone sits in the rain-shadow of the Vancouver Island and Olympic Mountains. Mean annual temperature is relatively high and precipitation is relatively low (647 – 1263 mm per year). Victoria and the Gulf Islands are found in the Coastal Douglas Fir BEC zone.

The Mountain Hemlock BEC zone gets more precipitation than the Coastal Western Hemlock BEC Zone (average 5,000 mm per year) but most of that precipitation falls as snow. Strathcona Park is in the Mountain Hemlock BEC zone.

Avatar Grove and Big Lonely Doug are both in the Coastal Western Hemlock BEC zone. This zone has an average of 2,200 mm of precipitation per year—quite wet! This is the temperate rainforest of British Columbia.

This area was harvested in 2012. Big Lonely Doug was left behind because this tree was identified as a wildlife tree. It also serves as a seed tree, promoting natural regeneration within the clear cut. However most of what you see coming up is planted Douglas-fir. Companies are required to replant after harvesting on public land. They are responsible for the site until the trees reach a certain height, called “free growing.” This helps to ensure the sustainability of forestry in B.C.

We encourage you to get outside into our local forests, breath in the oxygen rich air, tilt your head back and experience the beauty towering above you.

 – Story shared by Marie Vance, volunteer, and Kendal Wright, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Get Out There – Adventure Recommendations from Marie

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

The West Coast beaches are beautiful and the access point at Sombrio Beach means you can do shorter versions of this multi-day hike! Learn more about the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

East Sooke Regional Park

Both the coast and interior trails offer their own magic, from beautiful ocean views to green forest trails. Learn more about East Sooke Regional Park.

Jocelyn Hill in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Amazing views and perfect on sunny days. Learn more about Gowlland Tod Provincial Park.