Ancient Forest Alliance staff examine an old-growth Douglas fir in the Nahmint Valley known as Alberni Giant. The tree is protected. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

FOREST INK: Canada spared from many impacts due to population explosion

Living in Canada it is hard for us to realize the impact humans have had on the world’s forests

Jim Hilton

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

Living in Canada it is hard for us to realize the impact humans have had on the world’s forests and natural grasslands over that past 100 years.

While in B.C. we have been impacted by insects and wild fires in the last few decades most of the changes will start to heal in a few years but in much of the world most of the changes are permanent with more destruction to come as humans continue to dominate and displace the wild component. In most cases the amount of change is directly related to the population density with the number of people per square kilometre as follows: China 153 , India 460, Bangladesh 1253 and Canada 4.

In B.C. we have had some significant losses in old growth forests and interior grasslands which has impacted some of our native birds it has not been as severe as other parts of the world. Some recent research has shown that loss of habitat has been hard on the wild bird populations. The researchers estimated changes in the populations of 529 species using long-term bird-monitoring databases. This data showed that the number of individual birds across all of those species had decreased by 29 per cent, from around 10 billion in 1970 to just over seven billion in 2017.

Because of major size differences in many species most new research converts numbers into biomass so comparisons between species was more reliable. Initial literature reviews indicated there wasn’t a comprehensive, holistic estimate of all the different components of biomass. To solve the absence of data Prof Ron Milo, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel lead a team of scientists who have shown that the world’s 7.6 billion people in 2018 represent just 0.01 per cent of all living things.

READ MORE: Community forests have many advantages for rural communities

“Yet since the dawn of civilization, humanity has caused the loss of 83 per cent of all wild mammals. The new work is the first comprehensive estimate of the weight of every class of living creature and overturns some long-held assumptions. Bacteria are indeed a major life form – 13 per cent of everything – but plants overshadow everything, representing 82 per cent of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, to fish and animals, make up just five per cent of the world’s biomass.

“Another surprise is that the teeming life revealed in the oceans by some television series turns out to represent just one per cent of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface.”

The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to debate declaring a new geological era (the Anthropocene) with one of the suggested markers being the huge increase and impact of the domestic chicken. As pointed out by author Milo, while we often we see huge flocks of native birds, of every kind, they found there are [far] more domesticated birds.

READ MORE: Forest tenure changes are occurring throughout the world

“Since the advent of domestication, humans have skewed the breakdown of species. Today, wild mammals account for just over four per cent of mammal biomass on Earth. In contrast, the biomass of livestock, the bulk of which are cattle and pigs, is more than 14 times the biomass of their wild cousins.”

While Canada has converted some native grasslands and forests for domesticated animal use it is minor compared to some tropical forests which are being burned to produce short term grasslands for cattle production.. The massive fires in Brazil this summer are just one example.

The implications for humans are obvious, as we lose biodiversity and create huge monocultures, the planet is much more susceptible to catastrophic losses due to plagues and diseases outbreaks.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Representatives from Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association are on the Williams Lake City Council meeting agenda to discuss concerns surrounding Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex’s policy to no longer allow spectators at its indoor ice arenas. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Minor Hockey reps to air concerns at city hall over no spectator policy

WLMHA president Mike Rispin and parent and coach Ryan Hatt are attending

COVID-19 test tube. (Contributed)
test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health launches online booking for COVID-19 tests

Testing is available to anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms

B.C. Conservative Leader Trevor Bolin and Cariboo North candidate Kyle Townsend were practising proper physical distancing during a campaign stop in Quesnel on Saturday, Oct. 17. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Bolin first party leader to visit Quesnel

The B.C. Conservative Pary’s leader made the stop to support Kyle Townsend

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

The best photo of the Fraser River Footbridge taken on Oct. 23 or 24 will be rewarded with a donation to the Polio Plus Fund. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel’s footbridge set for scarlet spotlight

The Fraser River Footbridge will be bathed in red light to mark World Polio Day Oct. 23 and 24

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read