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Nova Scotia's forests

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GPI Atlantic issued its extensive study of Nova Scotia's forests yesterday.

The "good" news:

selection harvesting, which removes trees selectively to maintain the integrity, age and species diversity, health, and value of the forest as a whole, grew marginally from 0.9% of logging in 2000 to 1.5% in 2005-06, while clearcutting declined from 97% to 94% in the same period.

But...

All that is good, says GPI report author, Linda Pannozzo, but it’s a far cry from what’s needed to repair the huge damage caused by the massive increase in logging and clearcutting in the last 25 years. Since the early 1980s, timber harvest volumes have increased by nearly 60%—from 3.3 million cubic metres annually to 5.2 million in 2006, after peaking at nearly 7 million cubic metres in 2004.

As a result, the average age of Nova Scotia’s forests has never been younger. In the 1970s only 4% of the province’s forests were under 20 years of age, compared to 16% in the 1990s and 24% today. While the percentage of forests over 80 years old has declined by 94% in the last half century, the proportion of very young forests up to age 20 increased by a remarkable 327%.

Older forests (aged more than 80 years) declined from 25% of forests 50 years ago to just 1.5% in the latest forest inventory. True old-growth forest, which dominated the province’s forests prior to European colonization, has virtually disappeared from Nova Scotia. Only 0.3% of the province’s forests are now more than 100 years old, down from 9% fifty years ago. Not surprisingly, there has also been a marked decline in forest-dependent species of flora and fauna.

In other words, we've got an unsustainable forest industry. What's needed, says GPI, is

immediate protection of all remaining old forests, a sharp reduction in clearcutting and harvest volumes, much stronger incentives to support selection harvesting and uneven-aged forest management, and a determined shift to value-added forest products that produce more jobs and economic value per unit of wood cut and thus require less timber.

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