Researchers concerned about impact of post-wildfire salvage logging

Impacts of salvage logging

New research from the University of British Columbia Okanagan shows that logging on land damaged by wildfires has a negative impact on animals.

Karen Hodges, a biology professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, says the compounded effects of wildfire and post-fire salvage logging are more severe than what wildlife experience from fire alone.

“When trees are removed from a newly burned landscape, birds and mammals lose the last remnants of habitat,” she adds. 

“Salvage logging decreases forest biodiversity and changes ecological processes of post-fire forest regeneration. Mosaics of regenerating forest are changed through the removal of standing and downed trees, which would naturally remain on the landscape following fire.” 

While BC’s logging industry is heavily regulated, harvesting differs between normal harvests and post-fire logging. 

“Salvage logging is often done urgently as harvesters attempt to get burned timber to market before the wood deteriorates,” she says. 

“Salvage logging is also done at larger scales and intensities than a standard harvest. This post-fire harvest means wildlife species that can manage after a wildfire do not rebound as quickly from this second disturbance.”

Master’s student Angelina Kelly led the research studying the populations of snowshoe hares and red squirrels in post-fire and salvage-logged areas of the Chilcotin, which is an area impacted by wildfires in 2010 and 2017.

“The main concern of a snowshoe hare is to avoid predators. Hares select stands with protective vegetation cover and avoid open areas like clear-cuts, even if those areas provide food,” says Kelly. 

“Because of their need for vegetative cover, snowshoe hare populations decrease immediately following fires, clearcut logging or salvage logging.”

Their study area, about 32,000 hectares on the eastern edge of the Chilcotin Plateau, was ravaged by wildfire in 2017. 

The post-fire salvage-logged areas supported no hares or red squirrels for at least eight to nine years after the initial wildfire. Burn areas where no post-fire harvesting took place supported low densities of hares and red squirrels by that time," adds Kelly. 

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