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Our Research

AFER’s research addresses current issues of forest conservation in Ontario and surrounding jurisdictions. Ideally, our research results are applied directly and immediately to the development of strategies and policies that will maintain or restore forest biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. We collect primary field data as well as information from secondary sources at a variety of spatial scales from the fine scale such as the ecology of tree regeneration to the broad scale such as the continental biogeography of forest ecosystem types. AFER has conducted mapping analyses and field work in ancient forest landscapes primarily in Temagami, Algonquin Park, the Lower Spanish Forest, Peterborough County, and the Greater Toronto Area. 

Highlights

Since the late 1980’s, AFER scientists have been focusing research and education efforts primarily on old-growth forests (OGFs) and wildlife habitat corridors (WHCs), both of which are now considered “natural infrastructure”. When their natural character is maintained, both of these natural infrastructure features have the ability to provide numerous community services including (1) climate change resilience, (2) increased access to nature for people, (3) improved environmental quality, (4) enhanced biodiversity and habitat, and (5) climate change mitigation.

AFER has produced two editions of the book: Ontario's Old-growth Forests (Henry & Quinby; 2010, 2021; Fitzhenry & Whiteside).  Two more books from AFER are currently in preparation: Old-growth Forests in Ontario's Greenbelt (M. Henry) and Stewardship of Primary Forests: the Catchacoma, Ontario Old-growth Forest Case Study (P. Quinby). In addition, Dr. Quinby's work has been cited worldwide by at least 60 different science and resource management journals and many other publications

In the book, Protected Places, Gerald Killan wrote that,

 

         Only when Quinby and the Temagami Wilderness Society initiated the Tall Pines Project

          in 1988 did anyone attempt to identify the specific qualities of an old-growth forest in

         northeastern North America!” (pg. 372).

 

Since starting our work on old-growth red and eastern white pine forests in 1988, protection for these forests in Ontario increased from 6,000 hectares in 1990 to more than 100,000 hectares in 1999, a 17x increase in protection.

AFER’s most significant work on OGFs addressed the conservation of three large, old-growth coniferous stands in Ontario. We were the first to identify, characterize and document: (1) the world’s largest old-growth eastern white pine stand located on Lake Obabika, Temagami, Ontario (once threatened with logging; now protected), (2) the world’s largest old-growth red pine forest located on Wolf Lake, Temagami, Ontario (currently threatened by mining claims), and (3) Canada’s largest old-growth eastern hemlock forest located at the north end of Catchacoma Lake, Trent Lakes, Ontario (currently threatened by commercial logging and a northward moving population of hemlock woolly adelgid).

AFER was one of the first organizations to identify and map WHCs in Canada. Our two primary WHC projects include the Algonquin to Adirondacks Wildlife Corridor (A2A; 1999) and the Temagami to Algonquin Wildlife Corridor (2002) both of which were accomplished using GIS software and regional-scale ecological data. Our A2A work was the original quantitative mapping that has provided a vision and a scientific foundation to work towards re-establishing ecological connectivity between central Ontario and northern New York State. 

Our Temagami to Algonquin Wildlife Corridor (T2A) work has not resulted in the same high level of interest currently in the A2A Corridor, primarily because ecological integrity in the region north of Algonquin Park is less threatened and less well-known than the area south of Algonquin Park. We expect that in the next few decades, as climate warming and biodiversity loss become more problematic, ecological connectivity extending north from Algonquin Park will become a more pressing issue requiring a more active involvement to maintain regional ecological integrity.

AFER’s forest education experience has included numerous projects to design and construct hiking trails and to prepare nature interpretation materials for these trails that explore old-growth forested landscapes in Ontario. This has included hiking/nature trails in Algonquin Park (Taylor Statten Camps); at Blueberry Lake, Temagami; on Temagami Island, Lake Temagami; in the White Bear Forest, Temagami; in the Obabika Lake Old-growth Forest, Temagami, and at the Catchacoma Forest in northern Peterborough County. These trails continue to be well-used by the public and are maintained by local volunteers.

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