Do you know what week it is? Guess! No, seriously, guess.
It’s National Forestry Week – but we’ll forgive you if it hasn’t occurred to you to celebrate. Like the forests it celebrates, this holiday is important – but it’s also a bit unsung.
Although we all know how important our forests are – for ecosystem health and for the health of Albertans – we often don’t give them as much attention as they deserve. If our trees were to suddenly disappear, our ingratitude would likely change in a hurry – but fortunately, Alberta has a system in place to ensure that never happens.
In previous posts, we’ve told you about Alberta’s reforestation program and our cement-walled seed bunker. Although our extensive seed collection program has many uses – some research-related and some practical – one of its biggest jobs is to supply the trees needed to re-plant harvested areas after logging operations.
Although it’s at times overshadowed by our biggest export – oil – trees are big business for Alberta. About 60 per cent (!) of the province is forested, and each year, approximately 75 000 hectares are harvested – making us the fourth largest forestry province in Canada.
With thousands of hectares harvested each year, you might wonder why how Alberta’s forests continue to thrive. The answer is simple: the province requires reforestation of all harvested areas within two years. The practical result of this? Anywhere from 70 – 80 million trees are planted each year – and the result is a landscape that stays green and healthy.
So how do you conjure a lush green oasis from nothing in just two years – magic? Although these trees might appear to spring up overnight, they are actually the end product of a lot of meticulous work and planning.
Prior to harvest, companies survey and collect the seed that will be required to re-plant the area. That seed is stored in Alberta’s very own reforestation seed bunker in a stable, climate controlled environment until they are needed to be sown and then planted. And, since about 15% of planting is done with genetically improved seeds (more on that in our next post), we can help the next generation of trees grow up stronger, taller, and more resistant to disease – helping ensure that our mighty forests remain for generations to come.