Coastal Temperate Rain Forests: Ecological Characteristics, Status and Distribution Worldwide
Ecotrust and Conservation International have prepared this document for the explicit purpose of soliciting comments from researchers and managers working in coastal temperate rain forests around the world. We have developed a global GIS database to assess the distribution and status of coastal temperate rain forests, and so that new information can be incorporated in the database as it becomes available. This report presents conflicting estimates of the areal extent of coastal temperate rain forests as a result of different methods and information sources. This August 1993 edition is a slightly revised version of the first printing in July 1992, and does not reflect many of the intervening changes in the status of coastal temperate rainforests worldwide. We hope that readers will continue to inform us of any errors or additional data that would help us to refine and update the global database, and to build future regional databases. We would like to substantially revise this report at a later date.
The report includes preliminary maps illustrating the "original" extent of coastal temperate rain forests. We define original extent as post-glaciation, pre-human settlement. In many regions, this admittedly translates to pre-colonial settlement.
Coastal temperate rain forests constitute a relatively rare forest type, originally covering 30 to 40 million hectares, less than 1/5 of 1% of the earth's land surface. Three features are common to all coastal temperate rain forests: proximity to oceans, the presence of mountains, and as a result of the two, high rainfall. Therefore they are restricted to the coastal margins of western North America, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile and Argentina, as well as portions of Japan, northwest Europe and the Black Sea coast of Turkey and Georgia. Ecologically, coastal temperate rain forests are distinguished by complex interactions between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine systems.
Over half of these coastal temperate rain forests worldwide have been extirpated due to logging and conversion to other non-forest uses. Of those that remain, the largest undeveloped tracts are found in South America and North America. In North America, no intact, unlogged watersheds of any size remain in the continental United States. The largest areas of undeveloped coastal temperate rain forests in the more productive zone of this biome exist in British Columbia.
Ecologists have long attempted to classify the major biotic zones of the Earth. Some classification schemes base categories on extant dominant vegetation and others use climatic data to delineate major vegetation formations. The configuration of these biomes highlights large scale landscape patterns of the planet. Superimposed on global geologic or climatic maps, these eco-zones add a dimension to our understanding of global ecological processes.
This paper proposes a new biome, a subdivision of the previously acknowledged temperate rain forest type, the coastal temperate rain forest. Common ecological characteristics, beyond species composition or forest structure, form the basis for the classification. This approach groups areas subject to similar environmental pressures, allowing recognition of this forest type in widely separated regions of the world, despite variations in species composition and site history. The decision to formally define this forest type grew out of an interest in placing the distribution and status of coastal temperate rain forests in a global context. Like the tropical rain forests which have rightly received so much attention, these forests are an important part of our global heritage.
This report provides a preliminary assessment of the global distribution, ecological characteristics, and conservation status of coastal temperate rain forests, with special emphasis on North America. It is intended for scientists and managers working in these widely scattered forests; to apprise them of current maps and information, and to acquaint them with other researchers around the globe interested in the ecology and fate of this forest type.
A number of key sources were used in producing this report. Information on the definition and distribution of coastal temperate rain forests comes largely from work done by Paul Alaback and Jim Weigand, researchers now with the United States Forest Service in Juneau and Portland, respectively. Weigand compiled their research in a December 1990 document tided "Coastal Temperate Rain Forests: Definition and Global Distribution with Particular Emphasis on North America," in consultation with Alaback. (Hereafter referred to as Weigand, 1990.) This report includes Weigand's manual map analyses. Much of the data on the status of these forests, and to some degree their extent, comes from published maps and, through correspondence with land management agencies. A recent report by Keith Moore (1991) produced for Earthlife Canada, Ecotrust and Conservation International titled "An Inventory of Watersheds in the Coastal Temperate Rain Forest of British Columbia" was also useful. Finally, a report by Andy Mitchell served as the source of information regarding Ecotrust/Conservation International's Coastal Temperate Rain Forest Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping Project, which recalculated Weigand's preliminary estimates of the extent of coastal temperate rain forest.
Provisional Definition of Coastal Temperate Rain Forests
The broad range of environmental features that characterize coastal temperate rain forests makes it difficult to establish a highly precise global definition of the forest type. Forest classification schemes within the coastal temperate rain forest zone vary considerably from country to country. Chile and Argentina, for example, classify their forests by geoclimatic parameters at the regional level, and by microsite and habitat at the community level. Tasmanian ecologists distinguish forest types biogeographically, according to altitude and climatic variables. As a result, Weigand explored a number of options in developing globally applicable parameters for coastal temperate rain forests.
The most important ecological factors in attempting to define coastal temperate rain forests are the amount and annual distribution of moisture. Developing a multivariate index of perhumidity would be the optimal method, but the number of variables involved — latitude, aspect, elevation, rainfall distribution and total cloud cover make this analysis impractical. The next best alternative, a measure of the distribution of soil moisture throughout the year, also proved beyond the scope of existing data and this initial analysis.
Within the scientific community there remains some discussion regarding a global definition of coastal temperate rain forest. To date, Alaback (1990) has furnished the most comprehensive definition based on his work in North and South America. He incorporates the type, amount, and distribution of precipitation, as well as a critical maximum summer temperature (July or austral January) in his definition. Temperature is relevant to calculations of perhumidity because it affects the availability and ecological function of precipitation, but for the sake of simplicity, temperature was not used to develop this global definition of coastal temperate rain forests.
For the purposes of this analysis, Weigand narrowed Alaback's definition of coastal temperate rain forests to the following: areas between 32 and 60 degrees latitude, with the presence of vegetation (if not currently, then originally in a forested condition), with at least 2000 mm (80 in) of annual rainfall. (Precipitation can also occur as snow or fog. In some areas, moisture captured by the forest canopy during fog events contributes significantly to the annual water budget (Harr, 1980)). This should be considered a working definition, to be refined as ecologists learn more about each coastal temperate rain forest region.
This delineation follows the Holdridge Life Zone Classification and allowed Weigand to determine the global distribution of coastal temperate rain forests using map data on climate and precipitation in conjunction with information concerning vegetation. Absolute confirmation of the existence of rain forest in areas now completely deforested, however, would require paleobotanical studies.
Coastal temperate rain forests are distinguished by an overabundance of moisture throughout the year and the absence of catastrophic fire as a major ecological factor. Three features are common to all coastal temperate rain forests: proximity to oceans, the presence of mountains, and as a result of the interaction of the two, high rainfall. Therefore coastal temperate rain forests are found primarily on the western edges of continents where westerly winds and cyclonic storms move onshore from the open ocean.
Weigand estimates that just over 30 million hectares (75 million acres) of coastal temperate rain forest existed originally (pre-human settlement), restricted to the coastal margins of western North America, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile, and Argentina, as well as Japan, northwest Europe and the Black Sea coast of Turkey and former Soviet Georgia. (Map 1 Coastal Temperate Rain Forests of the World, p.5. Note that the coastal temperate rain forests of Japan are not included on this map due to scientific uncertainty as to their exact distribution.) This represents an area approximately 1.5% of the extent of original tropical rain forests. Set in a global context, coastal temperate rain forests constitute a rare biome. The total area of remaining coastal temperate rain forest is unknown, although researchers believe that 17.3 million hectares (42.7 million acres) or 56% of the total has been logged and converted to non-forest use.
Ecotrust/Conservation International recalculated Weigand's preliminary estimate, using a Geographic Information System to digitize and compute the areal extent of coastal temperate rain forest. (GIS project described in more detail in sections IV and V of this report.) Employing a computer based analysis using maps obtained by Weigand, plus additional or alternative data sources Ecotrust/CI arrived at a figure of 41 million hectares (100 million acres). The original extent of this forest type is best expressed as a range of 30-40 million hectares (80-100 million acres).
In the Southern Hemisphere, Chile supports the largest remaining zone, which extends from approximately Arauco south into Magellanes province. New Zealand's South Island contains a significant area, and a large zone of broad-leaved temperate rain forest on the island of Tasmania has provided refuge for some of the most ancient elements of Australia's flora (Working Group for Rain Forest Conservation, 1987).
The Northern Hemisphere harbors the "Amazon Basin" of temperate rain forests. Here, in North America, the largest contiguous, coastal temperate rain forest zone on Earth ranges from the Alaskan Peninsula, south through British Columbia and Washington state to Oregon's Siuslaw River. Japan and Norway presumably contain some natural forests which fit the definition, and Iceland, the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, and a narrow crescent along the Black Sea in Turkey and Soviet Georgia all formerly contained coastal, temperate rain forest. In these areas the forests exist largely as small, fragmented remnants or have been completely extirpated (Weigand, 1990; see Section IV for more detailed information).
The current distribution of these natural forest stands has been reduced by the global demand for wood products. Many coastal temperate rain forest species are extremely valuable commercially. Alerce and monkey puzzle in South America and Sitka spruce and yellow cypress (yellow cedar) in North America are among the most highly prized coniferous timber species in the world.
Weigand (1990), in consultation with Alaback, identified four major subgroups of coastal temperate rain forests based on temperature and precipitation patterns:
- Boreal temperate rain forests, illustrated by forests previously found in Iceland and central Norway, Yakutat to the Alaska Peninsula in North America, and extreme southern Chile and Argentina. This forest type is found in areas of even annual rainfall distribution, <1000 growing degree days, mean July (austral January) temperatures <12° C and considerable snowfall;
- Perhumid temperate rain forests, including northwestern Europe, northern Vancouver Island, B.C. to Yakutat, Alaska in North America, Isla Chiloe to Punta Arenas in Chile, and the South Island of New Zealand. Perhumid forests exist in areas of even annual rainfall distribution, <1500 growing degree days, mean July (austral January) temperatures <16° C and >12° and a minimum of snowfall;
- Seasonal temperate rain forests, typified by the forests from southern Vancouver Island, B.C., through central Washington to central Oregon in North America, central Chile, western Tasmania, and possible outliers in northwestern Spain and Yugoslavia. This forest type exists where summer rainfall is reduced while mean July (austral January) temperatures remain cool <25° C and >16°, where there are >2500 growing degree days, and where there is a minimum of snowfall;
- Perhumid subtropical temperate rain forests, characteristic of North Island, New Zealand, the monsoonal region of southern Japan, the Islas de Juan Fernandez in Chile, the Black Sea coast between northeast Turkey and Soviet Georgia, the Coast redwood forests of the Northern California fog belt, and possibly the southeast Caspian Sea coast of Iran. As the name implies, these forests exist in warmer areas >25° C mean July (austral January) temperatures, where there is virtually no snowfall at sea level.
Ecological Characteristics of Coastal Temperate Rain Forests
Although marked differences exist in the dominant species of coastal temperate rain forests — the characteristic mix of broad-leaved and coniferous species in Chile is quite different from the cedar-spruce-hemlock assemblages found in North America or the predominantly coniferous forests of Japan — they share many structural and functional features. Coastal temperate rain forests, as areas where the land meets the sea, are part of some of the most complex and most dynamic systems on Earth, comprising terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems. As the rivers of these forests near the sea, subtle changes occur. With each slight increase in salinity, the vegetation and animal species change, progressively becoming more marine in character, until, at the mouths of the rivers, the shift is complete: the forest ends and the sea begins.
The two systems are inextricably linked: the forest reaches out to influence the diversity and productivity of life in the sea, which in turn furnishes the wind and rain necessary for maintenance of the forest character. This exchange of nutrients and energy creates the base for a complex food chain, rich enough to support numerous migratory as well as resident species. Many bird, and particularly in North America, anadromous fish species make efficient use of both the ocean and the forest's resources.
Ocean currents, such as the moderating Gulf Stream off the coast of Europe or the Humboldt Current which affects Chile, and seasonal shifts in air circulation create weather patterns conducive to the formation and maintenance of coastal temperate rain forests. The northern California Current off the western coast of North America, illustrates this process. The ocean currents of the North Pacific Gyre reach North America and divide into north- and south-moving streams. In different seasons the flow of the currents, and the changes in the position of the North Pacific high and Aleutian low pressure cells, produce characteristic weather patterns (Parmenter and Bailey, 1985). In the winter, storms move out of the south and west, sweep over the coast, and are forced up into the cooler air of coastal mountain ranges. Water condenses, deluges the forest, and over time returns to the sea through an extensive riparian network. In the summer, warm ocean air blown in by summer winds meets the cold, coastal waters of the California current, and creates dense fog banks. This fog provides crucial moisture for the forests during what is for other forest types, the dry summer (Gabler et al, 1975).
The seasonal winds buffeting the coastline play a key role in maintaining the character of these forests. The trees in these areas are shallow rooted (the result of an abundance of nutrients at the surface of the cool, perpetually wet soils) and therefore highly susceptible to windthrow. Yet catastrophic wind events, such as hurricanes are uncommon. Pervasive moisture inhibits large-scale fires, making community and landscape level disturbances (with the notable exception of clearcuts) rare. Windstorm and rain-initiated landslide disturbances occur frequently, however, promoting a high level of structural diversity and creating a patchy "mosaic" landscape.
Frequent stochastic windthrow results in a complex matrix of fallen trunks and branches on the ground and in the streams. Organic debris accumulated over centuries, and covered with mosses, ferns, and fungi blankets the forest floor and obscures the shapes of the fallen trees. Some of the oldest and largest trees in the world tower over this mosaic in a patchy, multi-story canopy of mixed age and species in varying stages of senescence. Epiphytic mosses, laced throughout the canopy, are the "ecological equivalent" of the epiphytic bromeliads abundant in tropical rain forests. Coastal temperate rain forests accumulate up to 500-2,000 metric tons of organic material per hectare, two to five times that found in tropical rain forests (Alaback, 1989; Fujimori, 1971; and Franklin and Waring 1980).
Throughout much of their range, trees of the coastal temperate rain forests grow to enormous size and unusual age. Climatic factors (moderate temperatures and abundant moisture permit year round photosynthesis and reduce respiration transpiration demand) as well as genetic proclivity for sustained height growth and longevity probably contribute to this phenomenon (Fujimori, 1971; and Franklin and Waring, 1980). The resultant stored organic matter, the highest standing biomass of any ecosystem on Earth, is important for two major reasons. One, it serves as a nutrient subsidy, a subsidy most vividly manifested in the form of nurse logs, which provide a growing medium for seedlings and recycle organic matter back to the living components of the forest. Second, it represents a significant carbon reservoir, which, combined with the photosynthetic function of the forests, begs consideration in strategies designed to control atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Intricate riparian networks enhance the structural diversity of the forest. Increased structural diversity in turn expands the potential for biological diversity. Variations in topography within watersheds create microsites with an assortment of animal and plant habitats. The abundance of specialized niches in this water-based landscape may be critical for the survival of smaller, less mobile species such as rodents and amphibians, each of which can occupy a particular area of the streamside (Swanson et al 1988). Genetic diversity within watersheds also results: in coastal North America salmon show chromosomal variation from stream to stream, and endemism among aquatic insects is thought by some to be distributed according to watershed boundaries.
In North America approximately 350 bird and animal species, including 48 species of amphibians and reptiles, 25 tree species, hundreds of species of fungi and lichens, and thousands of insects, mites, spiders and other soil organisms are found in coastal temperate rain forests. On Vancouver Island alone, where coastal temperate rain forest cover is high, an estimated 140 species of birds breed, including 30 which rely on the dead "snags" characteristic of these forests, and others which nest in burrows at the feet of large trees (Dorst, 1990). Although much remains to be learned about both systems, biological diversity indices for some taxa in coastal temperate rain forests (notably invertebrates, fungi and soil organisms) may compare to those of the tropical rain forests (Moore, 1990; Corn and Bury, 1990; Norse, 1990). Researchers are just now discovering the number of organisms, particularly insects, living in the canopy of North American coastal temperate rain forests. These woodlands may support the highest fungal and lichen diversity of any forest system.
The estuarine areas associated with coastal temperate rain forests, including salt marshes and mud flats are among the most productive in the world. This productivity can be partially attributed to the forest, which continually provides dissolved nutrients, particulate organic matter, and large woody debris. In contrast to the fate of fallen logs in terrestrial environments, wood-boring animals in the estuaries and the ocean attack wood long before significant soft rot can occur (Gonor et al, 1988). Mollusks and crustaceans all play a role in breaking down large pieces of wood, and marine fungi and bacteria finish the job. Within estuaries, dissolved and particulate nutrients and downed logs support rich shell fish beds and spawning grounds for commercially-important fish species. Due largely to logging practices, present levels of driftwood in estuaries and in the ocean are considerably lower than in the past (Gonor et al, 1988).
Fallen trees also, as in the terrestrial setting, create habitat and protective areas for fish, allowing them to hide from predatory birds, such as herons, eagles and ospreys. Ironically, these birds of prey use the same logs as hunting perches. Floating on the high seas, drift logs harbor schools of small fish, which in turn attract predator fish such as tuna, forming distinct ecological communities. In the salt marshes of the Pacific Northwest, these logs influence successional processes, allowing advances of the spruce/alder/willow forest community on stable piles of drift trees and logs left by past storms. In other parts of the marshes, exposed to winter storm waves, the forest edge may be in retreat: the ebb and flow of the tree line provides changing habitat for many organisms (Gonor et al, 1988).
Little is known about the functioning of this dual marine/terrestrial ecosystem. Clearly the complex ecological processes necessitate a management and conservation approach which provides for a full evaluation of biodiversity and ecological productivity.
Global Distribution of Coastal Temperate Rain Forests — Initial Overview
In his analysis, Weigand, with Alaback's assistance, identified areas bioclimatically suitable for coastal temperate rain forests. They relied on precipitation, vegetation, forest, and land-use maps at a variety of projections scales (1:1,000,000 to 1:36,000,000). For the U.S. they were able to use 1:100,000 scale maps. Some countries, such as Canada (British Columbia) and Australia (Tasmania), had published figures which they were able to utilize. Weigand synthesized this and other data to produce a series of small scale maps (1:2,000,000 to 1:36,000,000) for most areas of the world.
Phase 1 of the GIS project consisted of digitizing a series of small scale maps on which Weigand delineated coastal temperate rain forest, a 1:3,300,000 map of North America previously published by Ecotrust/CI, a map of forest types from the Atlas of Tasmania, and a map of the historic extent of indigenous New Zealand forests. To improve the accuracy, these maps were overlain with digitized annual precipitation maps (only areas receiving 2000 min or more were digitized). Most of these precipitation maps were from a series of climatic atlases published by UNESCO, at a scale of 1:5,000,000. Many of these maps are quite crude, with rainfall isohyets derived from a small number of weather stations. For Tasmania and New Zealand, precipitation maps produced in these countries at 1:10,000,000 and 1:2,000,000 scales respectively, were digitized. The project ran ESRI's ARC/INFO on a Hewlett-Packard Vectra 486 PC so base map information (coastlines, water bodies, major rivers, and country boundaries) was obtained in digital format from ESRI's PC world database, originally captured at a scale of 1:3,000,000. Ecotrust/CI based the final maps and estimates on what they deemed to be the most accurate fit between all of these sources of data.
Table 1 illustrates the discrepancies between the GIS-derived and Weigand's figures for each country. In many cases the GIS-derived estimates are mole accurate due to the precision of the digitization technique. In others, however, Weigand's may be a better reflection of the true area because he used larger scale maps (up to 1:100,000) and informants within the countries to ground truth his map derived estimates. The differences in the estimates of coastal temperate rain forest in British Columbia and Norway may be due to the inclusion of unforested, high elevation areas in the GIS database. The causes of the discrepancies in the estimates for each area are described in greater detail in the following section.
The following section provides estimates of likely original coastal temperate rain forest cover for several countries, as well as preliminary figures on existing coastal temperate rain forests and their protection status. (See Table 2 — Estimated Distribution and Status of Coastal Temperate Rain Forests. The estimates of protected coastal temperate rain forest are very rough, and the figures for North America in particular are undoubtedly higher than they should be due to the inclusion of alpine and other unforested areas in the calculations.) In many cases the forests have been eradicated, or modified to the extent that little remains of their original character. Most of the information presented on the status of these forests comes from Weigand's correspondence with land managers and any map data he was able to collect. The initial phase of the GIS project did not attempt this analysis. Tree species characteristic of the coastal temperate rain forest of each country are also listed. Special emphasis is placed on the forests of North America. To reiterate, all of these figures represent rough, preliminary estimates of the extent and status of these forests.
1. Northwestern Europe
Almost total manipulation and transformation of natural vegetation cover in Europe has done much to undermine a cultural sense of the presence of temperate rain forests in the region. (See Map 2 for the original distribution of rain forest in Europe, p.15.) Conversion to agricultural or grazing land (Ireland and the United Kingdom) and deforestation for fuel wood and timber (Iceland, Norway and Ireland) have resulted in a reduction of tree species indigenous only to European rain forests. As a result foresters and botanists do not incorporate considerations of temperate rain forests, as distinct from other forest types, in their ecological outlook (Poulinin and Walters, 1985; S. Kristinasen, pers. comm., Norwegian Meteorological Institute).
Pleistocene extinctions have left Northwestern Europe extremely species-poor in terms of trees. Only three coniferous species, Picea abies (Norway spruce), Taxus baccata (English yew), and Pinus sylvestris (Scott's pine) exist in the rain forest zone. Norway has the only extensive conifer forests (Picea abies) reminiscent of the temperate rain forests of North America. Deciduous species such as Betula pubescens (birch sp.), Betula nana (dwarf birch), Populus tremula (quaking aspen), Salix sp. (willow) and Alnus sp. (alder) species dominate European boreal temperate forests (Poulinin and Walters,1985), as well as Iceland and subalpine elevations in Norway. Characteristic species of coastal temperate rain forests of the United Kingdom and Ireland were Quercus petraea (oak sp.), Betula pendula (European birch), B. pubescens, Sorbus aucuparia (European mountain ash), and Ilex aquifolium (English holly).
The forests of Iceland have been virtually extirpated since human settlement began around 900 A.D. Less than one percent remains (Hjartarson et al., 1980). Originally, as much as 195,200 ha (GIS-derived) of boreal temperate rain forest may have existed in southeastern Iceland. (Weigand calculated that 187,500 existed, but the Iceland Forest Service places their estimate closer to 190,000.) The Icelandic forests were limited to a small number of species, most likely Betula nana, Betula pubescens, and Salix spp. (Nels Johnson, 1992, pers. comm.).
The only area under protected status today is a portion of Skaftafell National Park (20,000 ha) which overlaps the temperate rain forest zone.
Good mapping information exists for present forest cover and land use in Norway (Aaheim, 19841). In the rain forest zone of southwest Norway an estimated 605,000 ha of land was originally forested; approximately 20% of this is now under agricultural/agro-pastoral use. Weigand based this figure on a 1:1,000,000 scale map detailing current forest and agricultural lands and a 1:5,000,0010 scale map of average annual precipitation. The GIS-derived figure was 1,459,000 ha using only the precipitation map. Some areas in this zone can be presumed unforested, making the GIS-derived estimate too high. No definite information is available for unlogged areas, although Alaback suggests the possible existence of unlogged stands on some of the steeper, more remote offshore islands.
The Irish landscape has long been intensively managed, leaving little in the way of native remnant rain forests. Based on present-day rainfall maps, however, Weigand estimated that Ireland had an original rain forest of 143,400 ha, and GIS-derived calculations added 13,900 ha for a total of 157,300. Some forests have been allowed to regenerate naturally in the western portion of the island. Killarney National Park (8500 ha) is one such area under protection within the rain forest zone.
1.4. United Kingdom
Regions suitable for coastal temperate rain forests are limited to the West Highlands of Scotland, where an estimated 526,000 ha of original rain forest existed (from data provided by K. Kirby, Nature Conservancy Council, pers. comm.). Based on precipitation maps, the GIS-derived calculation placed the coastal temperate rain forest zone at 1,149,300 ha, but Kirby advised that only 60% of this area was forested, leading to an actual figure of 689,580 ha. Where once oak/birch (Quercus petraea and Betula pubescens) rain forests predominated, repeated logging and burning has long since created heaths of Calluna vulgaris and moors (Rodwell, in press). The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (4800 ha) contains one semi-natural "ancient forest" of Pinus sylvestris, and the Rhum National Nature and Biosphere Reserve, the St. Kilda Reserve, and some unlogged, semi-natural private forests fall within the rain forest zone. The Scots consider these private forests rare and never log them. Interior rain forests are found in the Lake District, Wales, and perhaps Devon.
Approximately 709,500 ha of subtropical rain forest were found along the Black Sea region of former Soviet Georgia and in the adjacent Batumi Oblast (Map 3 - Eastern Black Sea, p.19). (Weigand's figure of 527,000 was modified using a larger scale map of annual precipitation.) Major tree species in the region include temperate hardwoods such as Quercus (oak), Corylus (filbert), flex (holly), and Fagus (beech). In its natural state, the forest also features lianas (vines). Much of the arable land in this area has been converted to agriculture, and no information is currently available on the remaining forest or natural areas under protection.
The same tropical rain forest biome continues along the Black Sea coast of Turkey. Including montane and subalpine forests in the region, Weigand estimated the original forest as 919,000 ha. Using a 1:5,000,000 rather than a 1:10,000,000 scale map of average annual precipitation, the GIS-derived figure equaled 190,000 ha. The Forest Research Institute of Turkey considers 181,120 ha of the country to be temperate rain forest based on 1600 mm annual rainfall. Almost all of the original forest has been logged, but 25,934 ha of cleared land in the rain forest belt are now protected.
4. Australia (Tasmania)
While mainland Australia contains some regions termed "cool rain forest," by conventional definition this includes areas with rainfall as low as 1200 mm, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. Rain forests on the mainland occur primarily in isolated patches in deep ravines or at higher altitudes (Read and Hill, 1985). Extensive, continuous tracts of tall forest do not exist. (Refer to Map 4 - Rain Forests of the Tasman Sea, p.20.)
True coastal temperate rain forest occupies the western one-third of Tasmania, comprising at least 760,000 ha of forest land as per the species-based definition established by Jarman and Brown (1983). This figure incorporates areas with as little as 1200 mm annual precipitation. Laying a 1:10,000,000 scale map of 2000 mm annual precipitation over an existing 1:1,800,000 scale map of rainforest area, the GIS-derived figure reduced the estimate to 551,700 ha. Eighty five percent of the pre-settlement Tasmanian rain forest remains intact (Hickey, 1990), and a moratorium on logging has been in place since 1982. Longer-term strategies for rain forest conservation in Tasmania, through a government program "Recommended Areas for Protection" (RAP), call for 60% of the total forest area to be managed as protected reserves (Brown and Hickey, 1990). At present 45% of the rain forest is completely protected.
The major reserved tracts of temperate rain forest (43%) are contained within the Western Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area which includes the Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Clair, Franklin Lower Gordon Wild Rivers, South West and Hartz Mountain National Parks. Smaller patches of rain forest are found in other National Parks and reserves which contain 2% of the rain forest. The largest unlogged watershed within a reserve is that of the Gordon River and its tributaries which flow into Macquarie Harbor. This watershed encompasses more than 300,000 ha, which includes some vegetation types not classified as temperate rain forest. Human impacts on the watershed include a dam and three roads.
The largest unreserved tract of rain forest is in North West Tasmania in the Savage River watershed. It is relatively undisturbed but there are some roads, mining activities and fire damaged areas. A substantial part of this area has been proposed as a RAP and surrounding areas are to be further evaluated for their conservation significance.
Characteristic species for Tasmanian rain forest include Nothofagus cunninghamii (southern beech sp.), Atherosperma moschatum, and Eucryphia lucida and the conifer genera Phyllocladus, Lagarostrobos, Athrotaxis and Diselma. Classification of Tasmanian rain forests is complicated by the fact that seral Eucalyptus forests develop on rain forest sites. In the absence of fire or other broad scale disturbance the rain forest species in the understory of these forests do dominate to form climax communities. The Forestry Commission of Tasmania classifies rain forest as having less than 5% emergent eucalypt species.
The Forestry Commission has a well developed GIS database for the island.
5. New Zealand
Indigenous temperate rainforest covers approximately 5,360,000 ha of New Zealand, including perhumid and subtropical forests, based on a 1:1,000,000 scale map of the current (1974) extent of this forest type. The GIS-derived estimate actually reduced this figure by about 1 million ha using a 1:4,000,000 scale map of the historic (1880) extent of indigenous forest and a 1:2,006,000 scale map of average annual rainfall. Most of the temperate rain forest occurs on the western coast of the South Island. The North Island has small areas of subtropical coastal temperate rain forest which are not indicated on the map. The government estimates that 15% of New Zealand's indigenous lowland forest remains intact. More than 1,500,000 ha of rain forest, almost all in a natural state, are protected in national parks and refuges inside "forest parks."
The majority of the logging activities have occurred on the northern part of South Island and on North Island due to the proximity of urban centers and ports. The large areas of protected land are the result of a policy of setting aside the wetter, less accessible parts of the west coast of New Zealand, while intensively developing agriculture and plantation forestry, particularly Pinus radiata (radiata pine), on comparatively drier east slopes.
No inventories showing the current extent of logged forest exist. The largest continuous block of protected coastal temperate rain forest, tundra and glacier lies in the Fiordland National Park (1,252,297 ha) (Ministry of Forestry, 1987). The small amount of logging which occurred historically within the park boundaries is not documented. Many of these areas are not considered pristine because of the introduction of exotic species such as deer and elk. By decree, logging of any native forests must be sustainable, and conversion of rain forests to exotic' plantations is not permitted.
Species characteristic of the New Zealand temperate rain forest are the gymnosperms Prumnopitys spp., Dacrydium cupressinum, Dacrycarpus sp., Podocarpus cunninghamii, and Libocedrus bidwellii, the angiosperms Weinmannia racemosa and Nothofagus spp., and the tree ferns (Cyatheaceae) (Stewart and Rose, 1988; Bee et al., 1989; Norton, 1989; Duncan and Norton, 1990; Wilson et al., 1990). Kauri (Aegisthis) forests also occur in the rain forest region, but most of these have been heavily exploited.
Limited information has been obtained for the coastal temperate rain forest regions of Japan. The Japanese Environmental Agency has compiled good quality maps which focus primarily on species distribution: these maps have not yet been correlated with precipitation patterns.
Seven forest zones have been identified within the Camellieta japonaceae Region, which covers the entire country of Japan. Three of these zones, identified only through vegetation type, have been selected as representative areas of coastal temperate rain forest. These are the evergreen/oak, the Castanopsis cuspidata, and the Machilus thunbergii forest regions. Original and existing areas of coastal temperate rain forest in Japan have not yet been quantified. Coastal temperate rain forest can probably be found on all but the northern island of Hokkaido, with the largest extent occurring on the central island of Honshu. Only 2-3% of Japan's forests are Virgin, most of the forests are naturally regenerated second growth or plantations (Fumiko Fukuoka, 1992, pers. comm.). The Japanese logging industry is not active at this time, however it is anticipated that with a reduction in the amount of tropical hardwoods Japanese companies can harvest, they will soon turn to domestic sources. Many of the plantations are now mature enough to be cut.
7. South America
Along with the extensive and celebrated tropical rain forests of South America, a fragile and heavily exploited strip of coastal temperate rain forest exists in Chile and Argentina (Map 5 - Rain Forests of the Andean Austral, p.24). This region is a topographical and climatological mirror of the Pacific Northwest of North America, yet the forests are characterized by a mix of broad-leaved and coniferous species quite distinct from the conifer dominated areas of the Pacific Northwest.
The Argentinian Andes contain small blocks of alpine rain forest adjacent to the blocks of lower elevation Valdivian and North Patagonian rain forest in Chile. Magellanic temperate rainforest occurs at the eastern end of Tierra del Fuego, as well. These areas are extremely remote, and as a result no comprehensive information appears to be available on their forest cover. In total, an estimated 300,000 ha of coastal temperate rain forest originally existed in Argentina. (GIS-derived calculations indicated 323,300 ha using the same maps. This estimate is probably high because some areas within this zone have never been forested.)
Chile contains the largest zone of coastal temperate rain forest remaining in the southern hemisphere, and is the only country to have all four coastal temperate rain forest types within its national boundaries. Chile's temperate rain forests are the most species-rich in the world, due to a complex landscape which has produced diverse habitats and species composition. The subtropical rain forest on the Juan Fernandez Archipelago best exemplifies this biodiversity, with a 70% level of endemism in a very confined area (C. Weber, 1990, Corporacion Nacional Forestal, pers. comm.).
For mainland Chile, Weigand estimated that the original rain forest encompassed 7,312,000 ha (derived in part from an analysis by Schmidt and Lara, 1985) of which approximately 40% (2,925,000 ha) remains unlogged. Weigand based his estimate on a series of 1:1,300,000 to 1:1,500,000 scale maps of native vegetation. Using a 1:6,000,000 scale map of average annual precipitation and a 1:6,000,000 scale map of vegetation, modified by personal communication from Paul Alaback, the GIS calculation arrived at a figure of 11,675,100 ha. This estimate may be high due to rough precipitation data. The original area, stretching approximately from Arauco south into Magallanes province, covers virtually all of the forested lands in Regions X, XII, and a small portion of Region IX. The unlogged areas include 225,000 in Region X, (Rich Klein, pers. comm.) approximately 50% of the acreage of Region XI (1,460,000 ha) and approximately 95% of the acreage in Region XII (1,240,000 ha). A better estimate is needed.
Approximately 5,448,000 ha have been reserved in the coastal temperate rain forest zone, distributed among at least 35 national parks (Veblen et al., 1983), but many of these areas have been logged despite this status. The total amount of original forest actually within the national parks, therefore, is unknown. As of 1986, a proposed system of "reservas de region virgen," most of which would be in the coastal temperate rain forest zone, had not been mapped. (Gandara, 1986).
The most detailed analysis and distribution of Chilean forest vegetation is presented by Gajardo et al. (1983). Veblen et al. (1983) also produced a summary of Chilean rain forest types, identifying three major forest groupings which contain both evergreen and deciduous species: the more northerly and species-rich Valdivian rain forests, the more southerly and species-poor Magellanic rain forests, and the transitional North Patagonian rain forests. (These ecoregions parallel recognized zones in the coastal temperate rain forests of North America, the Olympic, North Pacific and Sub-Boreal divisions, respectively.) Valdivian forests are dominated by Nothofagus spp. (southern beech), Weinmanhia trichosperma, species of Lauraceae, Myrtaceae, and a few gymnosperms such as Podocarpus spp., Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree), and Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce cedar). In the boreal Magellanic forests, species of Nothofagus, particularly N. betuloides, dominate. Much of the southernmost forest is local in distribution and stunted due to poor soil conditions, high winds and cold climate.
One of the most impressive features of the Chilean rain forests is the alerce cedars, possible relatives of the giant sequoias of California. The largest conifer in South America, these trees can reach 4,000 years of age, and form stands similar to the "cathedral groves" of the Pacific Northwest. The alerce and the monkey puzzle tree make-up the only coniferous, forest types in South America, and are protected from logging under federal and international law, although these regulators are not always enforced. The Nothofagus pumilio zone in the Magallenes Province and the mixed Nothofagus zone along the coast are at risk, however. Heavy foreign investment in the pulp and wood chipping, industry in Chile has resulted in higher cuts and the subsequent establishment of Pinus radiata plantations on the cleared lands. Many Chilean universities have GIS capability and have begun to develop databases. The Center for Spatial Studies has recently initiated a multi-institutional attempt to evaluate the status of the national GIS.
8. North America
The coastal temperate rain forests of North America are limited to a narrow strip running from southeast Alaska to southern Oregon (See Map 6 - Rain Forests of the Pacific Northwest, p. 28). Weigand concluded that this predominantly coniferous forest covered a total area of approximately 14.3 million hectares (35.4 million acres). The GIS-produced figure was 20.7 million ha, 10,270,100 ha in British Columbia and 10,456,600 ha in the United States. In Canada, Weigand's estimate is based on personal communication with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests whereas the GIS-derived estimate is based on a 1:3,333,333 scale map of the coastal, western hemlock biogeoclimatic zone. The discrepancy between estimates in the U.S. occurred as a result of similar differences in source materials. Again, the GIS-derived figure is based on a 1:3,333,333 scale map of the Western hemlock ecosystem for Alaska and the Sitka spruce zone for Washington and Oregon. This estimate also includes approximately 1,270,000 ha of coast redwoods not incorporated in Weigand's analysis. Weigand used 11:100,000 scale land management maps with the 2000 mm precipitation zone delineated, as well as forest inventories and personal communication from several representatives of state and federal agencies. Logging in the coastal temperate rain forest zone has been widespread, generally beginning in the easily accessible lowlands and working upslope. Nonetheless, 40-50% of the world's remaining coastal temperate rain forests are found in North America. In the lower 48 states, not one coastal temperate rain forest watershed of any size remains, but British Columbia and Alaska still have some large, undeveloped tracts.
Coastal temperate rain forest in Alaska extends from the U.S./Canada border at the Dixon Entrance northwest to the Aleutian Range on the Alaska Peninsula, for a total of 5.5 million hectares. Both boreal and perhumid temperate rain forests are present, with Yakutat Bay suggested as the dividing line between the two zones. In many areas great variation in the topography creates variation in local rainfall. For this reason, and because the resolution of precipitation maps is poor, the lower rainfall limit is somewhat relaxed to include regions of widely varying rainfall. Zonation of precipitation follows Hartman and Johnson (1984), as recommended by the Alaska Climate Center, and Farr and Hard (1987) provided information concerning specific sites. Greater study is needed to further define the western limit of boreal temperate rain forest and to establish the limits of non-rain forest zones within the Tongass National Forest and the Haines State Forest.
Some areas are excluded from calculation of coastal temperate rain forest acreage due to local rain shadow effects. They include: the south side of Kodiak Island, the low rainfall regions of Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula, inland forests east of Valdez including the Bremner and Tasnuna river valleys, the forests to the north and west of Klukwan on the Lynn Canal, and the rain shadow zone around Angoon on Admiralty Island. In these areas annual rainfall drops below 50 inches.
All private land south of Yakutat is considered to have a history of logging; conversely, the private lands west of Yakutat are not considered to have had a history of logging except for documented cases in Prince William Sound (G. Covell, pers. comm.). Alaska has the largest expanse of coastal temperate rain forest under protection in the world, although protected areas, comprising 40% of the total coastal temperate rainforest area, are spread over great distances.
Recent passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act has changed the status of a large amount of land within this National forest. Over 400,000 ha of old growth forest is now protected from logging, including four new Wilderness Areas totaling 119,824 ha, (296,080 acres), and another 292,389 ha (722,482 acres) where commercial logging is prohibited. While no fixed boundaries have yet been established, expanded wilderness designation will cover lands in the Meyers Chuck, South Edlin, Young Lake, the Kuiu areas, and elsewhere.
Several species are characteristic of the Alaskan coastal temperate rain forest. Conifers include Tsuga mertensii (mountain hemlock), Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock), Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce), which only occurs in the coastal temperate rain forest, and the extremely valuable Chaemecyparis nootkensis (yellow or Alaska-cedar). Deciduous species include Betula, Populus, and Salix, which predominate in the extreme western range of the boreal rain forest. The hardwood species are very similar to the species composition of the boreal coastal temperate rain forest in Europe.
Alaska and British Columbia share a number of watersheds which contain large tracts of coastal temperate rain forest (Map 7 - Relevant Alaska/B.C. Watersheds, p. 29). While none of these exceed the 500,000 ha of the Kitlope region in British Columbia, (discussed below), several other large watersheds exist. These include the Unuk, Taku, Stikine, Whiting, and Tatshenshini/Alsek rivers. Only the Unuk and the Whiting watersheds, of 202,000 and 180,000 ha respectively, contain almost exclusively coastal temperate rain forest. The Stikine (2.9 million ha), the Taku (1.8 million ha) and the Tatshenshini/Alsek (total area unknown), all contain some interior forest as well as coastal temperate rain forest, but the exact distribution and quantity of each is unknown. Drawing a line between coastal and interior forest types is a difficult endeavor, but at some point in the watershed the vegetation and precipitation patterns begin to show subtle changes analogous to those found as a river enters an estuary. In Alaska proper, the Staney Creek or Harris River watersheds on Prince of Wales Island probably contain the largest extent of coastal temperate rain forest.
The headwaters of the Tatshenshini/Alsek watershed, comprising interior forest types, are protected in Kluane National Park in the Yukon, and the lower reaches are protected by Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. Authorities turned down a major copper mining project proposed for the unprotected middle reach, estimated at 2.8 million acres, in northwestern B.C. and created a wilderness area. The Champagne-Aishihik native group in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, has filed a land claim on the area, based on traditional use of the river.
Map 7 also outlines major unlogged watersheds consisting primarily of coastal temperate rain forest, or which contain coastal temperate rain forest and ice/tundra. The Unuk River watershed and the adjacent unlogged watershed of the mainland portion of the Misty Fiords National Monument (the hatched area south of the Unuk watershed) together comprise a linear strip of coastal temperate rain forest of nearly 1.0 million hectares. Other areas with a definite maritime influence are the southern parts of Baranof Island and Prince of Wales Island, each roughly 180,000 hectares.
A detailed inventory of coastal temperate rain forests of Alaska is found in Appendix A. Acreage figures were obtained from land management agencies and USGS 1:250,000 maps, and land managers provided information on protected areas. In many cases, figures were not known.
The western three-fourths of the Olympic Peninsula and a narrow coastal strip from Gray's Harbor County southward are defined as coastal temperate rain forest based on precipitation. This area incorporates 1.33 million hectares, 20% of which is protected. Much of the protected area, however, is higher elevation forest or wind-exposed, unproductive forest on the Olympic Peninsula coast. As in most of the areas already discussed, the most productive land has been, and continues to be, managed for timber production.
Although Washington State has a considerable amount of protected forest land, patterns of land ownership and jurisdiction have not favored conservation of entire unlogged watersheds. On the Olympic Peninsula, parts of watersheds directly at the coast have been protected as part of Olympic National Park, but all watersheds south of the Olympic Peninsula have been logged over the past 100 years.
An inventory of coastal temperate rain forest in Washington is found in Appendix B.
The mouth of the Siuslaw River in Oregon marks the southern boundary of the coastal temperate rain forest zone for North America. The boundary is drawn here for several reasons, primary among them being that the 2000 min annual rainfall region ends just north of the river. In addition, sand dunes break the coast further south, and prevent extensive forest formation directly on the coast. More typically Mediterranean floristics such as Lithocarpus densiflorus (tan oak), and Umbellularia californica (California laurel) reach their northern limit just south of the river. Finally, core coastal temperate rain forest species, particularly Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock) and Thuja plicata (western red cedar) become markedly less frequent in this area. Again, the choice of a boundary is somewhat arbitrary.
Several different groups, including The Wilderness Society and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, recently compiled relatively high resolution maps of the forests on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon. These maps are oriented toward identifying remaining old-growth Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir) forests on federal lands and plotting northern spotted owl habitat conservation areas, but combined with precipitation maps could provide an improved database for areas of coastal temperate rain forest.
There is, however, no functioning computerized database for State of Oregon lands, and acreage figures for forested areas in state parks are lacking or imprecise. A much smaller percentage of coastal temperate rain forest is under protection than in Washington state (approximately 2-5% of the Oregon rain forest land base of 919,000 ha). With this in mind, it is remarkable that a large expanse of unlogged forest with three intact watersheds exists in the Siuslaw National Forest. This area extends from Cape Perpetua south to Cummins Creeks Wilderness Area, and possibly includes parts of Washburne Memorial State Park, for almost 14,800 hectares.
See Appendix C for an inventory of coastal temperate rain forests of Oregon.
8.4. Coast Redwoods
Weigand did not include redwood forests in his report as coastal temperate rain forest, but they are incorporated in the GIS global and regional databases. Redwoods grow in the near-coastal Mediterranean zones of southern Oregon and northern and central California. They are not usually found directly on the coast but rather in sheltered valleys close to the coast, occasionally ranging as far inland as San Benito, Contra Costa, and Napa counties. This forest type represents a unique ecosystem under threat of increased logging. Only six percent of the original forests remain and only fourteen percent of redwood forest is protected.
An inventory of coast redwood forests is found in Appendix D.
8.5. British Columbia
The coastal temperate rain forest of British Columbia, originally estimated to cover an area of approximately 5.9 million hectares (J. Cuthbert, Chief Forester, Ministry of Forests, pers. comm.), is now believed to encompass 10.8 million ha (Andy MacKinnon, Ministry of Forests, pers. comm.) spanning the entire length of the coastline and extending as far as 150 km up rivers and inlets. The Provincial Ministry of Forests considers roughly 4 million ha of this "productive," and thus scheduled to be logged. As in Alaska, the extremely varied coastal topography has resulted in localized rain shadow effects. On the southeast side of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia, the northern extension of the Olympic coastal montane rain shadow region (which begins in southern Puget Sound) exerts its influence, noticeably lowering annual precipitation.
Three hundred thousand hectares of coastal temperate rain forest are reserved in provincial parks and national parks. Provincial park designation does not necessarily guarantee complete protection for the forest, however, as mining and other extractive activities may be allowed in these areas, and trade-offs of "productive" park land for other, less productive lands has occurred. No systematic inventory of remaining unlogged coastal temperate rain forest on Crown (public) lands and on protected lands exists at present.
Major tree species include all of the conifers listed for Alaskan coastal temperate rain forest, as well as Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir), Thuja plicata (western redcedar), Abies grandis (grand fir), Abies amabilis (Pacific silver fir), Alnus rubra (red alder), and Acer macrophyllum (big-leaf maple).
British Columbia contains some of the largest unlogged watersheds in the world, offering unique opportunities for ecosystem research in undisturbed areas. A recent inventory by Keith Moore evaluated 354 of British Columbia's coastal watersheds over 5,000 ha and assessed them in terms of level of development (Moore 1991, See Table 3 for summary).
The inventory of British Columbia's coastal (primary) watersheds reveals that only 20% are considered pristine, with the remainder showing significant evidence of human activities. Three of the only five remaining pristine watersheds on Vancouver Island the Sydney (5,900 ha), the Megin (24,300 ha) and the Moyeha (18,200 ha) drain into Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Like many of the watersheds inventoried, they are leased to large forest products companies. For the most part, this means that all of the remaining old-growth forest, outside of protected areas, is scheduled to be logged. At the present cutting rates of 40,000 ha per year, a vast majority of the "productive" virgin forests may be gone in as little as 15 years.
In all size classes, only nine entire watersheds (2.5%) enjoy some form of protected status. The majority of these are in the smallest class, with no large (>100,000 ha) watersheds protected, and only one in the 20-100,000 ha class protected. Despite the fact that some development may have occurred, the three areas identified as high priorities for conservation efforts are Clayoquot Sound, Kyuquot/Brooks Peninsula, and the Kitlope/Gardner Canal. The Gardner Canal/Kitlope River system is the sole watershed over 100,000 ha considered modified, due only to the fact that 30-50 ha in the lower Kitlope has been logged. However, the rest of the watershed is pristine: this is the only coastal temperate rain forest watershed of this size, possibly in the world, with so little development.
Mapping Temperate Rain Forests Globally and Locally — Future Needs
The information gathered to date on the ecological character, distribution and status of coastal temperate rain forests, while relatively sparse, represents a needed start on the path toward informed management and conservation of these areas. We know that they contain the highest standing biomass of any ecosystem on the Earth and that their function relies on a critical linkage of marine and terrestrial components. We also know that the global demand for wood products is the most significant factor currently affecting their status. With over half of the forests in this ecological zone logged or converted to non-forest use, and pressures on the remaining areas continually mounting, the window of opportunity within which to identify critical areas, initiate and catalyze local conservation programs, and begin long-term monitoring projects at local, regional and global levels, is closing rapidly.
Computer-based geographic information systems (GIS) offer the best method of assembling and organizing the data needed to assess the status and distribution of coastal temperate rain forests. GIS allows not only the generation of new map data from satellite imagery and aerial photos, but also the integration of existing maps at different scales and projections. Information such as areas of high biodiversity and distribution of key species gathered through field surveys can be incorporated in the database as it becomes available.
Ecotrust/CI's GIS program initially focused on creating a preliminary global database based on Weigand's data. The GIS derived estimates of the areal extent of coastal temperate rain forests reported in the preceding pages of this document were completed in August 1991. This initial overview was intended as a cursory assessment of the original global extent of coastal temperate rain forests. Ecotrust/CI's ultimate goal is to develop nested local, regional, and global databases. As specific priorities within the temperate rain forest emerge, regional datasets can be developed into local databases. As these local databases develop sharper detail, they can be patched in to update and improve the databases at higher levels, ultimately providing a more accurate view of the global status of coastal temperate rain forests.
The following questions have driven the design of the project and the database itself. Where do coastal temperate rain forests still exist? How much exists in relation to the former amount? How fragmented is it? How quickly is it being converted? What are the global and regional priorities for coastal temperate rain forest research? Are there undisturbed coastal temperate rain forest watersheds that can be researched and monitored as whole functional ecosystems as a baseline for forest management in the region?
Providing a landscape level overview aids in identifying priority watersheds for additional study. To facilitate this analysis, Ecotrust/CI's project is now focusing on developing more detailed regional databases, beginning with the Pacific Northwest. Our knowledge base for this area is most complete, and it is estimated that close to 40% of the remaining coastal temperate rain forests are found here. Clearly the need exists for a GIS-based inventory of forested and cutover lands, both public and private, to allow agencies, conservationists, communities and timber companies access to the information necessary for policy and management decisions.
All of the databases center on watersheds as the key units of analysis. Watersheds serve as uniquely appropriate functional boundaries for the management of these forests, providing conceptual clarity beyond that presented by administrative boundaries. From a scientific standpoint, they are also critical landscape units. Whole, unmodified watersheds are vital to understanding the ecology of this complex land/sea ecosystem. (For an excellent review of the rationale for the use of watersheds as management and research units see Lertzman et al., in preparation.)
At all levels of analysis, layers such as:
- land cover
- rainfall distribution
- species distribution
- watershed boundaries
- land ownership/protected areas
at the appropriate scales, (between. 1:1,000,000 to 1:250,000) in the database will allow the questions posed above to be addressed. Conservation International and Ecotrust are coordinating closely with state and provincial agencies, and local organizations on inclusion of data relating specifically to temperate rain forest extent and status.
The regional analyses will now use ARC/INFO on a Sun Microsystems SPARCstation2 and a Tektronix 4211 Graphics Netstation, so that large datasets can be processed, intensive spatial analyses performed, and high quality cartographic output achieved.
Major themes of information and specific layers included in the Pacific Northwest database are listed below:
Average annual precipitation
Average summer precipitation
Average July temperature
Census tract boundaries
In addition, a local GIS system for the Prince William Sound/Copper River Delta area in Alaska is now on-line and one is being developed for the Willapa Bay region in Washington State. These pilot projects will test the regional database design and aid in developing data automation procedures which can be applied to the construction of the regional and global database. The databases will also serve as an important tool for ecological research and spatial information management in the two ecosystems. The pilot projects will be followed by full scale data automation of the Pacific Northwest regional database and subsequent spatial analyses.
Ecotrust/CI will publish maps and reports summarizing:
- current rain forest distribution
- original extent of rain forest
- development in each primary watershed
- protection status of each primary watershed
This information will help to determine the most effective use of limited conservation resources. The results of all analyses will be made available to local organizations in the region, who can use the information in conjunction with other political and economic data, to develop land use plans for specific areas. The overall goal of the Coastal Temperate Rain Forest Mapping Project is to provide information that will help managers and conservationists decide which areas are a priority for conservation within each temperate rain forest region, which areas can be sustainably developed, and which areas merit ecological restoration.
This is the first time that the analysis of the global or regional status of specific biomes in relation to their management and conservation has been undertaken. It is also the first time in many areas that the mapping focuses on entire ecosystems rather than on a particular species. Some sub-regional databases have been built in the Pacific Northwest and other countries, but they do not permit an evaluation of specific regions or sites in a global, or even continental, context. While existing efforts compliment Ecotrust/CI's coastal temperate rain forest database, similar analyses must be undertaken across temperate rain forest biomes in North America and worldwide, to allow for more precise areal estimates, continuous monitoring, and a more objective sense of priorities for long term programs of forest research, conservation, management, and restoration.
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