Salvage logging in the boreal and cordilleran forests of Canada: Integrating industrial and ecological concerns in management plans.
Michel St-Germain, David F. Greene.
Fire has been part of the North American boreal and cordilleran ecosystems for thousands of years. Because fire and harvesting compete directly for the same wood supply, and provinces have, within the last few decades, tended to reach their annual allowable cut, salvage logging has emerged as a practice to minimize the impact of fire on long-term wood supply. In most parts of the boreal and cordilleran forests, fire-killed boles rapidly degrade after their death, as wood-boring insects, stain, wood-decay fungi and checking lead to significant loss of grade or volume in the months following the fire. Because of this impending degradation, salvage operations are often hurried and other considerations, including the potential ecological impacts of salvage logging, have seldom been taken into consideration when defining harvesting strategies. The ecological consequences of rapid salvage have been widely studied only in the last 5 years, and it is now clear that salvage logging can have negative impacts on natural regeneration by seed, water quality, and fire-associated animal species. In this paper, we review both industrial and ecological constraints to salvage logging and discuss how both can be integrated in salvage plans. In particular, we focus on the issues of salvage timing and retention. At this point, some type of retention of merchantable stands, even if only for a few years, appears to be the only way to alleviate the negative ecological impacts of post-fire logging. On-site operational constraints, e.g., stands that cannot be harvested due to lack of accessibility, represent an important starting point for any retention strategy.