The most studied kind of ancient forest is called "old-growth forest". Old-growth forests differ from younger forests in three main ways. First, they have trees
that are much older than the average age for the tree species. Second, they generally have greater numbers of snags,
or dead standing trees, than younger forests. And third, they have a large number of logs on the forest floor compared
to younger forests. In some old-growth forest ecosystems, there are numerous logs across streams which tend to form
debris dams that are less common in younger forests.
Old-growth forests are valuable for many reasons. They keep soil from eroding away; help to keep water clean;
hold on to nutrients which are very important for plant growth; provide large, natural areas which are required
to maintain healthy animal populations; and by building up dead wood (snags and logs) instead of converting wood
to carbon dioxide gas, they help to mitigate the problem of global warming (increased carbon dioxide leading to
increased temperature at the earth's surface). The study of old-growth forests has also helped us to better
understand the field of ecology.
The best known old-growth forests in central Ontario are the old-growth white and red pine forests. Sadly, however,
less than one percent of the world's original old-growth white and red pine forests remain, which makes
them "endangered ecosystems". If the few remaining old-growth forests are to be saved we must develop a better
understanding of what they are and what makes them work.
You will find the answers to many questions you didn't even know you had in our publications. You
may wish to take a virtual walk on the Blueberry Ecology Trails to get a feel for
old growth forests and forest ecology, or read An Overview of Ancient Forest Ecology in the Lake
Temagami Site Region, or a report on Sustainability and the Value of Ancient Forest
Landscapes, which includes frightening facts about what we're doing to the biodiversity of the
And how can you help save some of the diversity of life on our planet? Here are a few ideas.
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