What do you do when you visit a marine research center? You take a walk in the park of course (in the forest actually)!
Last weekend, the Biol 326 class ventured out to Vancouver Island to visit Bamfield. A little town on the far West side of the island, Bamfield has little more than a hundred permanent residents, and is set between the glorious Pacific Ocean and stretches of temperate rainforests (which can receive upwards of 300 cm of rain per year ). Right at the water’s edge at Barkely Sound is the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, the main employer for the townsfolk, as well as a great place to learn about the wonders of aquatic biology and ecology. Here, we were able to dredge for marine life at the bottom of the sea, watch seals and sea lions relax on their perches, and investigate the organisms of tidal ecosystems.
Aside from focusing solely on the aquatic aspects of what Bamfield had to offer, we also took some time to appreciate the amazing forests that surround Bamfield. Located at the northern tip of the West Coast Trail of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Bamfield is surrounded by what is known as old-growth forests. Also known as primary forests, these forests are extremely old, and have been developing over hundreds of years. These forests are extremely bio-diverse, and have tons of different species of organisms of all kinds. For example, the massive tree pictured below will take hundreds of years to decay naturally, and during that process, it will be both a home and food source for lots of other organisms, like fungi, moss, and insects!
Hiking a short way into the trail, we were able to come across many species of trees, including Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, hemlocks, and massive redwood cedars. Though not in our direct vicinity, Canada’s largest tree, the Cheewhat Giant, can also be found in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It towers at 56 meters tall, and is massive enough to be worth 450 telephone poles of wood!
Unfortunately, many of the old growth forests of Canada are at risk of logging. The old trees in these forests are especially desirable due to their large size. While some areas are protected in Old-Growth Management Areas, up to 75% of Vancouver Island’s original old-growth forests have already been logged. Old-growth forests are crucial for sustaining massive amounts of biodiversity, as well as maintaining water purity and soil quality. Without these rainforests, the landscape of the West Coast would be very different, and culturally and economically important animals like salmon will be greatly impacted.
To learn more about the old-growth forests of BC, be sure to visit the Ancient Forest Alliance website, and don’t forget to check out the BMSC website for details about amazing study and work opportunities!