Because of its unique qualities and its many uses, the white pine population has been greatly affected by selective logging since the early days of colonization. It was the most heavily exploited conifer species in Québec in the 1850s, which led to a sharp decline in its population in 1890. Under a project led by Alison Munson of the Centre for Forest Research (CEF), researchers have gained access to land surveying records dating back to the 19th century, allowing them to compare the pine population then and now, and to determine the best conditions for ensuring maximum growth of the species.
This study demonstrated, among other things, that the current white pine population is seven times smaller than it was in the 19th century in the Mauricie region. In addition, the researchers were able to identify in which specific areas the restoration of the species should be prioritized. For example, data show that white pine currently grows in less fertile and less accessible areas, and is no longer found in the most productive sites.
In addition to conserving our forest heritage, this type of management could prove to be economically viable in the long term.
The CEF is a good example of the inter-university initiatives being developed in Québec. In accordance with new provincial legislation on forest management, the Centre brings together researchers from several disciplines who are working towards a better understanding of how different forest ecosystems function in order to ensure sustainable management of our forests. This type of management is called “ecosystemic”, because it prioritizes the preservation of the integrity and health of the ecosystem.
The data collected on white pine and other overexploited species are helping to establish a general management framework aimed at restoring the original species and structural diversity of the forest. Because a diverse forest is more resilient and more resistant to disease and forest fires, in addition to conserving our forest heritage, this type of management could prove to be economically viable in the long term, as it will ensure a diverse and continuous supply of forest products. Forestry companies, such as project partner Resolute Forest Products, are under considerable commercial pressure to obtain certification for sustainable forestry practices in order to sell their products on the domestic and international markets. The historical inventory of white pine in the Mid-Mauricie region led by Alison Munson and her team is a good example of successful collaboration between researchers and industry, with the aim of maintaining the species diversity of commercial forests.