Andrew Park, Biology Department, University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 2E9, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian Messier, Department of Biological Sciences, UQAM, 1200, Rue St-Alexandre, Montréal, QC, H3C 3P8, email@example.com
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has predicted that, by 2050, 75% of the merchantable wood in the world could come from tree plantations established on 5-10% of the Global forest land base. It is anticipated that the majority of these plantations will be composed of fast growing species, many of which will be exotics in the areas targeted for plantation establishment. In Canada, short-rotation plantations and silvicultural intensification projects are being initiated to produce biomass fuels, alleviate impending shortages of timber from primary forests, or to increase allowable cuts.
There are numerous problems associated with the use of short rotation plantations and intensive forest management in Canada. First, plantations suffer from a very negative image in the eyes of the general public. In the popular imagination, plantation forests are monocultured biological deserts subjected to heavy handed management and doused with herbicides and pesticides. Secondly, although some Canadian jurisdictions have acknowledged that timber shortages will occur over the next 4 – 5 decades, the extensive management of primary (previously unlogged) forests continues to form the basis of most forest management planning. Thirdly, although the need for ecosystem-based management of forests has been widely acknowledged, the focus of intensive silviculture has been almost exclusively on fibre and biomass production.
In this paper, I propose alternative criteria to assess the viability of forest plantations. I address the following questions: (1) to what extent can plantations potentially meet a diverse range of forest product, biodiversity, and ecological objectives?; (2) can plantation forests supplement biodiversity retention objectives across the larger landscape?; and (3) could plantations be intentionally managed to provide multiple ecosystem services. Recent reviews suggest that biodiversity losses, often viewed as an inevitable consequence of forest management can be ameliorated in plantations (Hartley 2002). At least one author (Kanowski 1997) has suggested that plantations need to incorporate greater species diversity, a broader range of objectives, and a more intimate integration with other land uses. For Canada, I will identify unused opportunities to incorporate multiple ecosystem and restoration objectives into the establishment of plantation forests. These potentially include combining carbon sequestration and riparian nutrient filters in riparian forest restoration, and afforestation on marginal agricultural land to enhance songbird habitat. I suggest that incorporating multiple objectives within a range of management intensities will be necessary to make plantation forests socially acceptable and ecologically viable.
Keywords: Plantation forests, multiple-use, ecosystem management, silvicultural intensification