|Une Forêt Unique
Il existe au Nouveau-Brunswick des forêts rares darbres à feuilles caduques,
quon appelle les « Appalachian Hardwood Forests » (AHF), trouvés dans
les comptés de Carleton et de Victoria. Malheureusement, ces forêts disparaissent vite.
La valeur actuelle des arbres à feuilles caduques va peut-être convaincre les
propriétaires de vendre leurs forêts. Ce nest pas une bonne chose ! Mais, en
plus davoir une valeur monétaire, ces forêts ont de grandes valeurs
environnementales. Les 65 sites au N.-B. varient en grandeur, dun seul hectare
jusquà plus de 100 hectares, distribués entre à peu près 200 propriétaires
Le Nature Trust a mis en place une campagne pour protéger ces forêts. La plupart des
sites ont déjà été coupés sélectivement. Mais, le gros problème, cest la
coupe à blanc. Les propriétaires peuvent prendre des précautions pour protéger les
forêts AHF. Ou bien, ils peuvent vendre leur terre à une organisation de conservation,
comme le Nature Trust.
La protection des forêts rares comme celles-ci commence par la compréhension du
problème. Si on ne sait pas ce qui est là, on ne sait pas ce quon détruit.
Nature Trust of New Brunswick
St. John River valley is home to a type of hardwood forest found nowhere else in Atlantic
Canada. Sometimes known as Appalachian Hardwood Forest (AHF) for its similarity to the
forests of central New England and southwestern Quebec, it contains tree and other plant
species uncommon or rare in New Brunswick.
Unfortunately, there's not much left.
Mature Basswood rises to form the canopy of an AHF stand
(photo: George Peabody)
The rich calcareous soils on which the hardwoods and their understorey grow are prime
agricultural land. Today, less than one percent of the land suitable for AHF actually
contains mature forest of this type. These remnants of a woodland ecology, which once
covered nearly 150,000 hectares in Carleton and Victoria counties, are vanishing at an
alarming rate. A 1997 survey by the Nature Trust of New Brunswick found that nearly half
of the sites classified as mature AHF when forest cover data was last assembled in 1981,
had since been partially or entirely clearcut
The sixty-five remaining sites, which the Nature Trust considers to have significance
for conservation, may all be under threat. Even if they are well managed by their present
owners - as many of them are - there is constant and increasing pressure on landowners to
take advantage of the present high market value of hardwood lumber. And even where current
owners are resistant to clear-cutting, there are no guarantees of future protection if and
as the land ownership changes.
Seeing the Forest and the Trees
Many of the mature hardwoods which form the canopy of AHF stands - butternut, basswood,
sugar maple, yellow birch - are commercially valuable trees. Of less commercial value, but
still ecologically significant, are such other AHF tree species as ironwood, elm, silver
maple and beech. Some of these species - butternut, basswood and silver maple, in
particular - are at or near their northern growth limits in New Brunswick's remnant AHF
Protected by the shade of the canopy are numerous woodland flowers, ferns, grasses and
bryophytes. These understorey species include several which are rare or uncommon in New
Brunswick. More than 80 percent of AHF sites catalogued by the Nature Trust in 1997
contained at least one rare species. Among them was desmodium glutinosum, which had been
listed as provincially extirpated, not having been recorded in New Brunswick for nearly a
(photo: George Peabody)
Rich understory growth characterizes mature AHF
Other rare species included populations of Clinton's shield-fern, which is very rare in
New Brunswick, and two of its hybrid forms which had not before been seen in the province
and are rare throughout most of North America. Perhaps the most significant species
discovered was Entodon brevisetus, a moss known from only one other location in Canada.
Together, the trees and understorey form a forest type capable of great richness and
diversity. AHF sites also provide crucial habitat to numerous bird species, particularly
migratory songbirds, and cavity nesting species which find homes in the large mature
trees, such as wood duck.
The sixty-five remnant mature AHF sites in Carleton and Victoria counties are, with one
exception, all on privately owned land. The sites range in size from smaller than a
hectare to over 100 hectares, averaging just over ten hectares. Very few of the sites have
a single owner; most of them have five or more owners. In total, more than 200 landowners
possess portions of mature AHF woodland in the region.
Following up on the survey, the Nature Trust has begun a landowner contact and public
awareness program in the region. The objectives of this program, which is planned to run
until the Spring of 2000, are to seek the highest level of protection possible for each
The exact meaning of "highest level of protection", of course, will differ
depending on the wishes and needs of individual landowners. Many of the sites - more than
80 percent - show evidence of some selective harvesting. It would be unrealistic to expect
all site owners to stop all forms of harvesting. Nor would this be necessary, in most
cases, to protect rare species and maintain the present ecological value of the site.
Desmodium glutinosum - A species of tick-trefoil had not been recorded in NB for nearly a
century before the Nature Trust survey.
(photo: George Peabody)
Careful selective harvesting can be consistent with an ecologically diverse and rich
forest: avoiding certain areas when the understorey species are most vulnerable; retaining
certain mature trees; maintaining the vital canopy. As part of the landowner contact
program, the Nature Trust will be collaborating with the Carleton-Victoria Wood Producers
Association to develop, for some sites, management plans which meet the harvest objectives
of the owners as well as the ecological needs of the site.
Other owners may wish to explore higher degrees of protection, and the Nature Trust has
several options to suggest. These include Conservation Easements - legally binding
management agreements which can be placed on a deed in perpetuity. Among other options for
landowners to consider are donation or sale to a conservation organization such as the
Protecting the remaining Appalachian Hardwood Forest sites in Carleton and Victoria
counties is, really, up to the owners of the sites. Protection begins with understanding
what is on the site: seeing the forest, not only the trees. It continues when landowners
follow good conservation stewardship practices, caring for their valuable woodland.
For many landowners, protecting the habitat of rare species is a good enough reason for
becoming conservation stewards of their forest land. Other landowners will look for
practical reasons. As a single sample of what they might find: Canada yew is an AHF
understorey species; it was not considered to have commercial value until recently when
scientists discovered that an important anti-cancer drug could be extracted from it.
Who knows what other rare or uncommon species, with yet-to-be-discovered commercial
value, may exist in our remaining Appalachian Hardwood Forests?
The only certainty is that if we fail to protect this woodland now, we may never
discover what we have lost.