Dr. Kate Frego, Principal Investigator
Students, along with their professor, study both natural processes and human impacts on vegetation, as part of an on-going scientific research program on plant ecology and conservation of biodiversity. They are also involved in educating the public on issues of conservation, as well as many aspects of plants: how they grow, how they can be identified, and how they can be used by humans for medicine, food, or other purposes – an area of study called ‘ethnobotany’.
In 2001, the students undertook their first research project at the Crane Mountain site, jointly funded by the Crane Mountain Enhancement Inc. and the Fundy Model Forest. The project had several facets:
1. Environmental Inventory
The primary objective was to provide an inventory of plant species and their locations within the landbase, to be used in planning a nature trail.
The students created several educational tools for the Interpretive Centre, including:
- A collection of dried, labeled and laminated specimens to illustrate the plants of the landbase,
- A computer database linked to the specimens, which documented the human uses of these wild plants (the ethnobotanical database), and
- A colourful poster introducing a frequently overlooked group of small primitive plants called the bryophytes: mosses and liverworts. .
3. Conservation Science
The students began the first stage of a longer term of study of the impact of forest harvest on biodiversity, specifically evaluating the impact of the harvest method known as ‘section cut’. This entailed establishing permanent monitoring units (‘permanent quadrats’) in the area slated for harvest, and tracking their changes in response to the harvest and beyond, to determine how the natural plant communities changed and, hopefully, recovered. This research question was of interest to the Fundy Model Forest as part of a larger research agenda: comparing the impacts of a number of different forest management techniques in order to establish Best Management Practices that will ensure conservation of forest biodiversity and sustainable use of forest resources.
Change of Scope
Unexpected events forced a change in the project plans for 2002:
- The vegetation inventory determined that the merchantable timber on which SNB had designed its harvest operation was missing, apparently stolen, and
- The establishment of a Construction and Demolition Site destroyed a number of the team’s permanent quadrats.
Consequently, in 2002 the project was funded by the CMEInc to replace the lost quadrats and to resample the previously created quadrats.
- The team was able to turn the set-backs into an advantage by also setting up much-needed ‘reference quadrats’ within the landbase and extending into the adjacent Loch Alva Protected Area. (These reference quadrats are required to account for natural changes, against which human impacts can be measured. Use of the Protected Area was necessary because there was insufficient “undisturbed forest” left in the Crane Mountain landbase.) Harvest of the designated area by SNB is complete, although the application became a salvage operation rather than a strict selection cut. The impact study is ready to proceed to the next stage: assessment of the immediate post-harvest impacts.
Impact study: Effects of forest management on forest floor plants, in relation to natural changes in forest communities (two-year continuation, 2003-2005)
The project will continue the impact study started in 2001. In both 2003 and 2004, the team will:
- Re-assess all permanent quadrats to determine immediate responses to forest harvest, and
- Re-assess vegetation in reference quadrats in adjacent areas of Loch Alva Protected Area and relatively undisturbed areas of Crane Mountain landbase, to establish natural levels of change.
- As emphasized in the team’s previous work with CMEInc, for this type of study to provide useful data, it must continue over a period of several years. Sampling in 2003 will provide information on the immediate impacts; usually very negative. Subsequent years of sampling would document such phenomena as (i) gradual declines of species, (ii) invasions of new species, and (iii) recovery of pre-harvest communities, if such occur.
The team will produce an interim progress report in May 2004, a final report in June 2005, and an educational and interpretational poster documenting the results also in June 2005.