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Old Growth Forest Research Trip


Our neighbor to the north, Canada, has an industry known for logging trees to produce timber and newsprint. Healthy old growth forests also can provide wood products such as furniture to boxes. In the United States, old growth trees are not used for paper pulp as they are in Canada. Old growth forests are important habitat for animals, which only survive in that type of forest, such as pine martin, spotted owl and more. Trees are a renewable natural resource; however, poor logging practices can destroy habitat for animals and birds, cause soil erosion and pollute streams. The most destruction occurs with clear cutting. When a forest is “clear cut” instead of selectively harvested, no trees are left.

Through many years of research by Ontario Ancient Forest organization, hundreds of acres of Ontario’s old growth forests have been permanently protected in Canada.  The following article is a description of one research trip, which Kathleen Rocco, the Education Specialist for the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District experienced as a volunteer field researcher. 


The EarthWatch research team was made up of people from around the world. Educators, high school students and field researchers joined scientists from Ontario Ancient Forest Exploration and Research to conduct research in Temegami, Ontario. The team collected data to study regeneration of white pine old growth forests. The purpose of the research was to rank areas for protection. The highest ranks forest areas would regenerate as a white pine dominated forest and provide wildlife corridors for old growth forest animals. This research will be used to prioritize conservation areas between Lady Evelyn Smoother Park and Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada and maybe even encourage wildlife corridor stretching into the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

The forests that the group researched were dominated with white and red pine trees towering over 200 feet tall. Other trees in the forests included deciduous trees such as red maple, sugar maple, aspen, red oak and white oak that were mixed with a variety of evergreens like balsam fir, jack pine, black spruce and white spruce. You may find the smaller versions of these trees in your neighborhood.

In order to get to the research sites, the group canoed everyday to set up new plots and record tree data in several places in the Rabbit Lake Watershed, specifically, White Bear Forest and Blueberry Lake Trails. The research plots were set up along a transect, a line, and the group surveyed and recorded data in five to eight plots along any given transect. Three sets of data were recorded within each plot. First set was all the living trees and dead standing trees or snags greater than ten centimeters in diameter. Some trees were so large that it took three people or more to hug the tree.  Second, the field researchers recorded any logs over fifteen centimeters in diameter, and they attempted to id them, which was difficult if the tree’s bark was gone. Lastly, small one meter squared vegetation plots were measured along the transect and all trees less than ten centimeters in diameter were identified and recorded by size. Some of the tree seedlings were no more than two inches tall and could easily be over looked hiding beneath shrubs. 

By recording logs or dead fallen trees, a researcher could determine what type of forest was dominate in the area hundreds of years ago. By looking at the tree seedlings, you can presume what the forest type may be a hundred years from now. If the forest was white pine dominated, is white pine dominate and has many white pine seedlings, then based on study criteria this forest deserves to be protected over a forest that is changing to a spruce or maple dominated forest.  


You can help old growth forests by:

  • Using less paper and paper products.
  • Making note pads from used paper and junk mail.
  • Recycling.
  • Stopping unwanted junk mail.
  • Buying recycled content paper, especially post-consumer recycled paper.
  • Wrapping gifts in reusable materials.
  • Bringing cloth bags to a store to carry groceries and other items home
  • Joining a forest action group.
  • Making sure U.S. policies help protect Canadian forests in a sustainable manner.
  • Vacationing in an old growth forest.

All photos provided by Kathleen Rocco

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December 1-31, 2014
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