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The Acadian forest: Historical condition and human impacts

Authors: J. Loo and N. Ives
Publication: The Forestry ChronicleJune 2003https://doi.org/10.5558/tfc79462-3

Abstract

The Acadian Forest Region comprises the three Maritime Provinces of Canada, each of which has a distinct history resulting in different patterns of land ownership, land use, and impacts on the forest. The region encompasses a high degree of physiographic and biological diversity, being situated where the warm, moist influence of the Gulf Stream from the south collides with the cold Labrador Current and the boreal forest gradually gives way to mostly deciduous forest. Natural forest types in the Acadian Forest Region include rich tolerant hardwood, similar to the deciduous forests to the south; spruce-fir forest, similar to boreal forest to the north; and an array of coniferous, deciduous, and mixed intermediate types. Red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.), sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) are considered characteristic of the Acadian Forest Region. Except for one quantitative study in one county of New Brunswick, and another study on Prince Edward Island, most knowledge of the historical forest condition has been gleaned from early descriptions by explorers, surveyors, and settlers of the Maritimes region. Although some regions have been affected much more than others, little, if any forested area has escaped human influence over the past four centuries. A general result of human activities has been a shift in successional status and age distribution, with increased frequency of relatively young, often even-aged, early successional forest types including balsam fir, white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), red maple (Acer rubrum L.), white birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.), and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.). Both the abundance and age of late-successional species such as sugar maple, red spruce, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis L. Carrière), yellow birch, cedar (Thuja occidentalis L.), and beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) have declined.Key words: pre-European forest, Maritime Provinces, historical ecology, witness trees, Acadian forest types, natural disturbance

Résumé

La région forestière acadienne est constituée des trois provinces maritimes, chacune ayant une histoire distincte qui est à l'origine de modes de propriété et d'utilisations des terres ainsi que des répercussions sur les forêts qui lui sont propres. Située au point de rencontre de l'influence chaude et humide du Gulf Stream et du courant du Labrador froid et où la forêt boréale laisse graduellement la place à une forêt en grande partie décidue, cette région comprend une grande diversité physiographique et biologique. La région forestière acadienne comprend les types de forêts naturelles suivantes : forêt productive de feuillus tolérants, semblable aux forêts décidues du sud; forêt d'épinettes et de sapins, semblable à la forêt boréale plus au nord; divers types de forêts conifériennes, décidues et mixtes. L'épinette rouge (Picea rubens Sarg.), le bouleau jaune (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.), l'érable à sucre (Acer saccharum Marsh.) et le sapin baumier (Abies balsamea [L.] Mill.) caractérisent cette région. À l'exception d'une étude quantitative dans un comté du Nouveau-Brunswick et d'une autre étude à l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard, la majorité des connaissances sur l'état passé de la forêt sont tirées des descriptions faites par les premiers explorateurs, arpenteurs et colons des Maritimes. Même si certaines régions ont été plus touchées que d'autres, très peu de zones forestières, voire aucune, ont échappé à l'influence humaine au cours des quatre derniers siècles. Un effet général des activités humaines a été un changement dans le stade de succession et dans la distribution d'âges, qui correspond à une présence accrue de forêts pionnières, souvent équiennes et relativement jeunes, comprenant le sapin baumier, l'épinette blanche (Picea glauca [Moench] Voss), l'érable rouge (Acer rubrum L.), le bouleau blanc (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) et le peuplier faux-tremble (Populus tremuloides Michx.). L'abondance et l'âge des essences de fin de succession, telles que l'érable à sucre, l'épinette rouge, la pruche du Canada (Tsuga canadensis L. Carr.), le bouleau jaune, le thuya occidental (Thuja occidentalis L.) et le hêtre à grandes feuilles (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) ont baissé.Mots clés : forêt pré-coloniale, Maritimes, écologie historique, arbres témoins, type de forêts Acadiennes, perturbation naturelle

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The Forestry Chronicle
Volume 79Number 3June 2003
Pages: 462 - 474

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Published online: 21 March 2011

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