Ira Sutherland

McGill University
M.Sc. candidate

Supervisor: Elena Bennett
Sarah Gergel, University of British Columbia
Start: 2013-09-03
End: 2015-09-01
Personal page


Ecosystem service recovery in BC coastal forests.
Nearly all of Vancouver Island’s productive old-growth forests have been cut down for timber, with widespread impacts on non-timber benefits provided by these forests. The core question that drives my research is: How do various ecosystem services recover in BC coastal forests, following logging? The old-growth forests of coastal BC provide a bundle of ecosystem services that sustain the wellbeing of local people including tangible products such as: timber, wild edible foods, and large western red-cedar trees used traditionally by local First Nations as a keystone cultural resource. They also regulate global climate through carbon storage and regulate the environmental quality of streams, which helps sustain the salmon resource. I have identified indicators that use forest stand structural features (eg, trees by size and species, cover of understory plants by species and vigour, and fallen logs by size, species and decay class) to estimate the capacity of a forest to provide a bundle of ecosystem services. I then use two approaches to study the recovery of multiple ecosystem services. First, I use existing government datasets from the Canadian Forest Service and the BC Ministry of Forests that have tracked the change in forest structure over a 300 hundred year period using chronosequence studies. I also use field sampling to contrast the structure of old-growth (>250 years old) and second-growth forests (~35 years old) at Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, to assess the legacy of past forestry operations. My field work was completed August 2014 and my field crew consisted entirely of local Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations who were able to provide traditional ecological knowledge on the ecosystem services of wild edible foods and traditional use of red-cedar. Funding from a QCBS Excellence award helped include the traditional knowledge in my project as well as training to assess regulating services that sustain environmental quality in salmon spawning habitat.