Saturday, July 25, 2009

Forest biology

Gerrard Olivotto, BA MSc RPF, is a specialist in forest economics and natural resource modelling, owner and operator of Campbell River Forest Research Ltd.

I asked Gerrard if he would expand on some of the themes discussed earlier today with Randy Marchand, that fell within his area of expertise.


Mushrooms come from mycelium, the fibers under the soil that connect to the tree. The mycelium looks after and supports the tree, and the mushroom is the fruit of what happens under the soil between trees and fungus. Fungi collect nutrients (phosphorous, ...) and feed it to the tree; the tree gets sugars from sunshine and gives it back to the fungi.

They are interconnected.

There is a big blossom of mushrooms in the Fall (except morels, which feed off the destruction from forest fires).

Mushroom growth comes in different stages depending on the age of the trees: Boletes (a delicacy, known as 'cep' in France) are found near trees of 30-40 years; chanterelles near 40-60 year old trees, and Matsutake (pine mushrooms) near trees 75-120 years old.

If the trees are older than 120 years, a non-edible fungus ('conk') takes over. You'll see it growing on the sides of the trees.

You can manage a forest and take down trees from 125-140 years old. That way you get really good timber and manage the regrowth underneath.

Deforestation completely wipes out the mushrooms. A mushroom compatible with a 75 year old tree can't live without the tree, although you might find some around the very edge of a clearcut (feeding on the remaining root system) for a few years.

The coolest thing is to get into a forest where selective logging has been done. All the roots become mushroom food.

I have done 25 years of field experiments, and some walk-throughs with major pine mushroom expert Shirley Pietla. The mushrooms break down root systems and feed the younger trees; everything grows very well.

Selective logging can be quite good for the whole system. Voles and mice love the mushrooms. As far as the vegetative system, you need some cover to distribute rain and snow, and to cool things down. Some biologists don't accept these observations, but mushroom production has tripled in areas where selective logging was done.

If you run around in the woods much it [global warming] should be obvious. Moss, the distribution of the canopy, the underground stuff are all affected. Lichens are a sign of dryness and cold (they usually grow on rocks and are very prevalent in the Northwest Territories, where reindeer feed on them).

Can you confirm what is happening in terms of reduction of forestry personnel in B.C.?

Gerrard: Yes, there has been a substantial reduction in forest science workers. The government offers retraining programs. Forestry is really shrinking, partly due to the softwood lumber situation, but the trees keep growing.

There is a huge concentration of just a few companies taking over all the little companies. They become conglomerates and have a 'corporate attitute' to land issues. Also, there is a huge growth of small woodlots getting hold of land and managing it differently.

The next 30-40 years will not be so good for mushrooms; the forests need to grow.

There are 28 or so Community Forest Licenses, for hundreds of hectares, for little towns, indian bands and such.

>> B.C. Mushrooms - a business perspective

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