Great Bear Rainforest
The Last Remaining Temperate Rainforest in the World is Yours to Experience
On March 31, 2009, the Great Bear Rainforest, which is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range on the west coast of British Columbia was officially and legally protected from logging.
The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world (2 million hectares), and is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals. In this lush rainforest stand, 1,000-year-old cedar trees and 90-metre tall Sitka spruce trees. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms that provide food for magnificent creatures such as orcas (killer whales), eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare Spirit bear.
Coastal temperate rainforests constitute one of the most endangered forest types on the planet. Rare to begin with, they originally covered less than 1/5 of 1 percent of the earth's land surface. Coastal temperate rainforests have three main distinguishing features: proximity to oceans, the presence of mountains, and high rainfall. Their ecology is marked by the dynamic and complex interactions between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine systems. Coastal temperate rainforests are primarily found in the coastal regions of North America, New Zealand, Tasmania, Chile and Argentina. In addition, they are found in extremely limited areas of Japan, northwest Europe, and the Black Sea coast of Turkey and the Republic of Georgia.
Close to sixty percent of the world's original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed as a result of logging and development. North America's ancient temperate rainforest once stretched the Pacific coast from southeast Alaska to northern California. Today, more than half of this rainforest is gone and not a single undeveloped, unlogged coastal watershed 5,000 hectares or larger remains south of the Canadian border.
BC's coastal temperate rainforests are characterized by some of the oldest and largest trees on Earth, the most common of which are Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, amabilis and Douglas fir. Trees can tower up to 90 metres and grow for more than 1,500 years. The biological abundance of BC's coastal rainforests is the result of over 10,000 years of evolution which began when the glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch melted. These coastal forests have evolved to their biological splendour because natural disturbances, such as fires, happen infrequently and are usually small in scale.
Wild salmon are the most important keystone species for coastal rainforest ecosystems and Grizzly bears depend on healthy salmon runs for their survival. Wild salmon are an important food source for a wide array of wildlife as well. Recent research is suggesting that even the ancient temperate rainforests on the coast utilize salmon. Bears drag the carcasses of spawned out salmon into the forest, facilitating a major upslope nitrogen transfer into the forest soil.