AWARE Hosts Old Forest Symposium

Bringing Science and Passion Together

October 2012 saw AWARE hosting it’s Old Forest Symposium.  The symposium sought to give those who are passionate about old forests and old trees access to the most up to date scientific thinking and research regarding these unique ecosystems.

At the symposium attendees learned how our current forest classification system groups all trees over 250 years into an old growth category, even though there are vast differences between a forest that is 251 years old and a forest stand that has been untouched for thousands of years.  Not only are the trees themselves vastly different but the habitat they provide differs, with some species preferring the more open old forests over more closely packed younger forests.  Curtis Bjork, a renowned botanist and lichenologist, gave a presentation on lichens that exist in forests and shared research demonstrating how specific species prefer old trees and so could be used to identify the age of forests.  Even dead trees have value as they fall to the forest floor (and create course woody debris) of remain standing, creating habitats for nesting birds such as woodpeckers, fungi and other wildlife.

Presentations by Ken Lertzman, of the Simon Fraser University School of Resource and Environmental Management, on the Sunday and Monday sessions gave attendees a regional context to BC’s forestry history and the background to other communities Eco-based Management approaches as well as providing the detail on the variety of events that impact many of our forests such as fire, disease or more recently logging.  Andy MacKinnon, of the BC Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resources , re-wrote his original presentation after the Q&A session that closed out the Sunday evening part of the symposium, to focus on a new title discussing ‘Old Growth – How much is enough?’.  As a registered professional forester and a research ecologist Andy directly addressed some of the questions that Whistler community members had raised and went further to make recommendations for the future.

Co-organiser for the event, Bob Brett of Snowline Research, presented preliminary findings of a study into tree ages in the Callaghan Valley and tied this in to previous studies he had done in and around Whistler.  These results highlighted the importance of the differentiation between 250 year old trees and the ancient trees that still exist in some areas around Whistler.

We hope to provide video snippets from the event shortly as well as the slideshows from each presentations.

The Old Forest Symposium would not have been possible without funding granted by the Community Foundation of Whistler and guest scientists Ken Lertzman, Andy MacKinnon and Curtis Bjork to take a break from busy schedules and committing to be involved.  The involvement of local businesses allowed the expansion of the event to include a site visit to the Ancient Cedars.  This would not have been possible without the support of Whistler Eco Tours, Nicklaus North Golf Course and Creekside Market, who donated staff, vehicles, space and lunches to the event.


Andy Mackinnon addresses the question of ‘How much Old Growth is enough?’


Local Biologist Bob Brett and Andy MacKinnon take attendees on an ecological exploration during the Ancient Cedars site visit.


Event organisers Bob Brett (Snowline Research) and Claire Ruddy (AWARE President) kneel front and centre of the site visit attendees and an ancient cedar.

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