Old-Growth Forest Dynamics – Applications to Ecosystem-Based Management and Conservation


Dr. Lori D. Daniels, Amanda Stan (Ph.D. Geography, UBC), Jen Passmore (M.R.M. Simon Fraser University), Janneke Lade (M.Sc., Integrated Sciences, UBC), Rory Clisby (B.Sc. Lancaster University, UK)

Drs. Cindy Prescott and Sue Grayston, Forest Sciences, UBC, Ole Ahrens (M.Sc. University of Gottingen, Germany)

Dennis Morgan, Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Community Forest


Traditional, equilibrium models of vegetation succession have been an impediment to understanding mechanisms and processes governing forest dynamics and a serious limitation to developing management goals and strategies that sustain forest composition, structure and resilience over the long term. My investigations of coastal forests employ multiple lines of evidence, including long-term permanent plots, stand reconstructions and dendroecological analyses, to challenge the traditional interpretations of fire regimes and “climax” concepts which have been used to justify management of old-growth forests in coastal BC.

My results contribute to a growing literature that has rejected assumptions that stand-replacing fires burn these forests every 250 years, on average. Instead, forest age structures show fire return intervals are >750 years in coastal watersheds and old-growth forests dominate at stand-to-landscape scales. My analyses of tree growth and spatially-explicit stand reconstructions provide evidence that Thuja plicata populations are maintained by fine-scale canopy gaps rather than being replaced by Tsuga heterophylla and Abies amabilis in old-growth forests. Based on these outcomes, I have advocated that ecologically sustainable management of these forests must include alternative silviculture that maintains uneven-aged, structurally diverse forests, and that traditional clearcuts and even-aged management are not consistent with natural disturbance regimes. To convey these research results and their important implications to forest managers, I have published in in forest management journals, including the Forestry Chronicle and the BC Journal of Ecosystems and Management.

In a complimentary project, I led an inter-disciplinary study in collaboration with the Bamfield-Huu-ay-aht Community Forest on Vancouver Island. This project provided baseline data on spatial and temporal attributes of the canopy gap disturbances. It was designed to guide ecosystem management and provide the foundation for an experimental study to be completed as harvesting proceeds in the community forest. Collaborators on this project were Drs. Cindy Prescott and Sue Grayston of the Forest Sciences Department, Faculty of Forestry at UBC and Dennis Morgan, Director of the Bamfield-Huu-ay-aht Community Forest.

This research has been funded by NSERC Discovery grants, the provincial FIA-Forest Science Program, and grants-in-aid-of-research from Metro Vancouver, the Whistler Naturalists and Western Forest Products to support student research projects. On-going projects involve graduate and undergraduate students who are testing hypotheses about the composition, structure, and dynamics of old-growth forests.



van Mantgem, P.J., Stephenson, N.L., Byrne, J.C., Daniels, L.D., Franklin, J.F., Fulé, P.Z., Harmon, M.E., Smith, J.M., Taylor, A.H. and Veblen, T.T. In press. Widespread increase of tree mortality rates in the western United States. Science (January 2009).

Daniels, L.D., J. Lade, M. Yanagawa, K.L. Werner, L. Vasak, J.A. Panjer, R.A. Klady, and R. Brett. 2008. Preservation of Old-Growth Forests: A Case Study of Big Timber Park, Whistler, BC. The Canadian Geographer 52: 367-379.

Daniels, L.D. and R.W. Gray. 2006. Disturbance regimes in coastal British Columbia. BC Journal of Ecosystems and Management 7:44-56.

Daniels, L.D. 2003. Western redcedar population dynamics in old-growth forests: contrasting ecological paradigms using tree rings. Forestry Chronicle, 79: 517-530.

Daniels, L.D., J. Dobrý, M.C. Feller, and K. Klinka1. 1997. Determining year of death of logs and snags of Thuja plicata in southwestern coastal British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 27: 1132-1141.

Daniels, L.D., P.L. Marshall, R.E. Carter, and K. Klinka. 1995. Age structure of Thuja plicata in the tree layer of old-growth stands near Vancouver, British Columbia. Northwest Science 69: 175-183.


Daniels, L.D. and K. Klinka. 1996. The dynamics of old-growth Thuja-Tsuga forests near Vancouver, British Columbia. Pp. 379-393 in Dean, J.S., Meko, D.M. and Swetnam, T.W. (eds.). Proceedings of the Conference on Tree Rings, Environment and Humanity. Held May 1994, Tucson, Arizona.

Daniels, L.D. 2003. Coastal forest succession in 3D: Development, Disturbance and Dynamics. Proceedings of the 50th Annual WIFDWC Meeting, Powell River, BC, October 2002.


Ahrens, O. 2005. Nutrient availability in natural gaps in old-growth forests in coastal British Columbia. Master of Science Thesis, The Georg-August University of Gottingen, Germany (Supervised by C. Prescott, Forestry, UBC)

Clisby, R. 2007. Applying Dendrochronological Techniques to an Ecological Problem: A Comparative Study of Western Redcedar and Western Hemlock in the Sub-canopy of Coastal Rainforest, British Columbia. BSc Thesis, Department of Geography, Lancaster University, UK (Supervised by L. Daniels, Geography, UBC)

Lade, J.C.2004. Population Dynamics of Canopy Gaps in Old-Growth Forests, Bamfield, British Columbia. B.Sc. Directed Study, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. (Supervised by L. Daniels, Geography, UBC)(


Daniels, L.D., C.E. Prescott and S. Grayston. 2007. Canopy gaps in the Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Community Forest: baseline information for variable retention silviculture. Report to the BC Forest Science Program, Forest Investment Account, Victoria, BC. October 2007. 91p.

Daniels, L.D., B. Gooderham, E. Leslie and K. Terry. 2006. Composition and structure of Douglas-fir forests: baseline data prior to helicopter logging. Report to Western Forest Products, Gold River, British Columbia. September 2006. 30p.

Daniels, L.D. and A.B. Stan. 2004. Canopy gaps in the submontane forest of coastal BC: a baseline for variable retention silviculture. 2003-4 Technical Report. Submitted to Forestry Innovation and Investment, Forest Research Program, Vancouver, British Columbia. April 2004. 29p.

Pearson, A.F., L.D. Daniels and G. Butt. 2003. Regeneration dynamics in clearcuts, variable retention and natural disturbance gaps in the forests of Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island. Report to Forest Innovation and Investment, Forest Research Program, Vancouver, BC. May 2003.


Canopy gap dynamics in coastal British Columbia, Canada. Co-Authors: J. Lade and A.B. Stan. Presented at the 6th North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Vancouver, BC, June 2007.

Forest Stand Dynamics at Lighthouse Park. Co-Presenters: L.D. Daniels, P. Chu, C. Nelson, R. Saraga, C. Shah, E. Shieh, R. Sidhu, D. Zinn. Lighthouse Park Presentation Society, West Vancouver, BC, April, 2006.

Western Redcedar: Ecology and History from Tree Rings. Co-Author: Dan Smith. Symposium Theme: Nuuchaanulth Humiss T’ikwitlth (Cedar Symposium):Cedar Needs – Past, Present & Future. Hupacasath House of Gathering, Port Alberni, BC, April 2005.

Coastal Forest Dynamics: Lessons from the GVRD Watersheds. Co-Authors: A. Stan, S. McCloskey, J. Passmore, and J. Lade. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, London, ON, May 2005.

Tree-Rings and Ecosystem Management of Coastal Temperate Rainforests in Canada. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Denver, CO, March 2005.

Coastal Forest Dynamics: Lessons from the GVRD Watersheds. Greater Vancouver Regional District, Watershed Management Division, Burnaby, BC. January 2005.

Canopy Gap Disturbance Regime: Nature as a Guide for Ecosystem Management. Annual General Meeting of the Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Community Forest Society, Bamfield BC March, 2004.

Canopy Gaps – Guidelines for Ecologically-Based Management of Coastal Old-Growth Forests. Special Lecture, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC, January 2004.
Gap Disturbance Regime and Variable Retention Silviculture Co-Authors: A. Stan and D. Morgan. Presentation at the FERIC Regeneration Issues in Partial Cutting, Campbell River, BC, November, 2003.

Gap Disturbance Regime and Tree Growth Response and Recruitment in Gaps. Invited symposium presentation at The Ecology and Silviculture of Variable Retention in BC Coastal Forests, Madrone Environmental Services, Malaspina College, Nanaimo, BC, April 2003.

Coastal forest succession in 3D. Invited symposium presentation at 50th Annual Meeting of the Western International Forest Disease Work Conference, Powell River, BC, October 2002.

Old-growth western redcedar forests: using tree-rings to interpret population processes. Old-growth forests in Canada: A Scientific Perspective, Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, October 2001


Temperate Rainforest Dynamics in Coastal British Columbia. Co-Presenters: L.D. Daniels, A.B. Stan and J. Passmore. Field Trip at the First American Dendrochronology Conference, Vancouver, BC, June 2008.

Temperate Rainforests – Sea and Sky. Co-Presenters: L.D. Daniels, K.P. Lertzman, A.B. Stan, S.P.J. McCloskey and J. Passmore. Field Trip at the North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Vancouver, BC, June 2006.