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Protected and Connected II: More Forests Protected on S,DÁYES

Introducing Vulture Ridge Nature Reserve and Osprey Ridge Nature Reserve: Two new nature sanctuaries on S,DÁYES, Pender Island!

We are excited to announce that two new Nature Reserves have been established on S,DÁYES (Pender Island), protecting an additional 46 acres (19 ha) of diverse, mature forest and enhancing connections with existing protected lands. Vulture Ridge Nature Reserve lies on the north-facing slope along Clam Bay Road, supports forest wetlands, diverse microclimates and understorey vegetation, and a sensitive herbaceous bluff ecosystem, and helps to connect existing Community Parks and private conservation lands along the ridge. Osprey Ridge Nature Reserve provides a direct connection between Roe Lake (part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve) and Shingle Creek (Masthead-Shingle Community Park), providing habitat connectivity for species at risk like red-legged frogs, olive-sided flycatchers, common nighthawks and silver-haired bats.

The Coastal Douglas-Fir biogeoclimatic zone is the most biodiverse in BC with the highest number of species and ecosystems at risk, yet it is over 80% privately owned, highly fragmented due to ongoing land conversion and urbanization, and only 11% is currently protected (Coastal Douglas-Fir Conservation Partnership). As a Land Trust upholding a land conservation mandate in this context, the Pender Islands Conservancy must necessarily prioritize strategic land protection through acquisitions. Indeed, 60% of respondents to a survey conducted in 2023 as part of our organization’s 30th anniversary year felt land protection should be one of our top priorities.

To protect land of greatest ecological significance, this means prioritizing critical wildlife habitat, threatened ecosystems supporting species at risk, and older forests. Older forests containing higher densities of legacy or veteran trees provide more microhabitats (e.g. bark pockets, cavities, broken tops) which support diverse insect, bird and bat species compared to younger forests.(1) Legacy trees represent huge above-ground carbon stores(2), supply increased soil carbon and nutrients, and enhance genetic diversity and resilience of forests in the face of climate extremes(3), particularly in moist forests(4). Protecting older forests is therefore critical for protecting biodiversity and wildlife habitat, and for promoting forest resilience. Wildlife and plant population persistence is directly related to degree of connectivity of protected areas(5), so protection of land that is connected to existing protected private Nature Reserves, conservation covenants or public parkland is also a priority.

Both new Nature Reserves contain a high density of large, old veteran trees (> 150 years old) that escaped the widespread commercial logging the Southern Gulf Islands were subjected to up to a century ago. These trees now provide the foundation for recruitment old-growth: mature forests that are beginning to take on the diverse structure and high biodiversity characteristic of old forests.


These Nature Reserves join an increasing network of protected lands (Figure 1) that will help to ensure the persistence of biodiverse, resilient forests in our community, protect groundwater, reduce fire risk and buffer climate extremes.

Figure 1. Area of land protected in private Nature Reserves on S,DÁYES (Pender Island) since 2021. Land securements in 2021 and 2022 were achieved in partnership with Raincoast Conservation Foundation.


We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the generous contributions of private donors, that made the protection of these threatened forest ecosystems possible.


This Project was undertaken with the financial support of:

Ce projet a été réalisé avec l'appui financier de:



References

(1) Michel AK & Winter S. 2009. Tree microhabitat structures as indicators of biodiversity in Douglas-fir forests of different stand ages and management histories in the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Forest Ecology and Management 257:1453.

 

(2) Mildrexler DJ, Berner LT, Law BE, Birdsey RA, Moomaw WR. 2020. Large trees dominate carbon storage in forests East of the Cascade Crest in the United States Pacific Northwest. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 3:594274.

 

(3) Simard SW, Roach WJ, Beauregard J, Burkart J, Cook D, Law D, Murphy-Steed A, Schacter T, Zickmantel A, Armstrong G, Fraser KM, Mart L, Heath ORJ, Jones L, Sachs NS, Sachs HR, Snyder EN, Tien M, Timmermans J. 2021. Partial retention of legacy trees protect mycorrhizal inoculum potential, biodiversity, and soil resources while promoting natural regeneration of Interior Douglas-Fir. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 3:620436.

 

(4) Roach WJ, Simard SW, Defrenne CE, Pickles BJ, Lavkulich LM, Ryan TL. 2021. Tree diversity, site index, and carbon storage decrease with aridity in Douglas-fir forests in Western Canada. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 4:682076.

 

(5) Noss RF, Daly KM. 2006. Incorporating connectivity into broad-scale conservation planning. In: Crooks KR & Sanjayan M. (eds), Connectivity Conservation. Cambridge Univ. Press pp. 587-619.

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