What do biosolids, riparian enhancement and the urban interface have in common? They’re all highlights from the PFLA 2013 forest field tour. You’d think, after 18 years of private forestry tours, we’d run out of interesting places to visit, but thanks to the organizing efforts of Steve Lackey this year’s tour secured PFLA’s reputation for producing engaging and informative field tours year after year.

Jim Wilkinson stading in the back of a truck

The 2013 tour kicked off with a visit to the Vancouver Island University (VIU) forest where Jim Wilkinson welcomed the group to the tour and provided background information about the 1,700 hectare forest (700 ha Crown woodlot and 1,000 ha private land) managed by the VIU forestry department since 1988 and composed of 78% Douglas-fir, 11% lodgepole pine and 7% red alder.

group standing in a Douglas-fir forest

After the introduction, participants split into three smaller groups to learn about Douglas-fir thinning, red alder with recedar underplanting and western white pine plantations. The three sites provided excellent opportunities for detailed discussion about planting, pruning, thinning and harvesting.

people walking on a trail through a Douglas-fir forest

Right on schedule, we followed the forest trail through the stand of 90-year-old Douglas-firs and hopped back on the bus to head to our next destination: the VIU biosolids demonstration site on Weigles Road where the poop is literally hitting the fan.

Poor soil conditions severely limit tree growth on some of the VIU forest sites. Project coordinators looked to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s abundant supply of municipal biosolids as an ecologically sensible way to improve forest health while diverting waste from the RDN’s landfill.

Biosolids are nutrient-rich, humus-like materials that result from the treatment of wastewater. Composed mostly of water, sand, nutrients and organic matter, biosolids contain nitrogen, phosphorus and other trace elements integral to plant growth. The VIU fertilization project uses biosolid waste to enhance the low concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus found in the existing soil.

Once we reached the site, organizers divided the tour into three stops:

image of sign describing first stop at VIU biosolids tour

Stop #1: Discussion of the untreated “control” site.

image of sign describing second stop on VIU biosolids tour

Stop #2: Discussion of disc trenching to enhance Douglas-fir growth on salal-dominated sites. Salal competes with conifer seedlings for moisture and nutrients. On dry, nutrient poor sites this can have long-term negative effects on Douglas-fir growth.

image of sign describing third stop on VIU biosolids tour

Stop #3: An overview of the biosolids program with explanations for biosolids application (50 ha/year, distributed with a modified manure spreader that reaches up to 30 m distances from the road).

comparing two Douglas-fir branches

Rod Bealing compares two Douglas-fir branches: one from the biosolid deomonstration site and one from the control site.

Thanks to research silviculturist, Ryan D’Anjou, participants received impressive amounts of information, including charts and graphs to compare data collected from the three sites; costs associated with the different treatments; survival rates, height growth, site index estimates; stem diameter growth and crown diameter for the three treatment sites. We’ve attached a pdf of the handout for your easy reference.

For more information, check out Biosolids Forest Fertilization Project or visit the VIU website.

Next stop: a visit to Centre Creek in the Englishman River watershed

a map of Centre Creek on TimberWest property in the Englishman River watershed

A visit to Centre Creek on TimberWest property in the Englishman River watershed made an ideal spot for lunch. TimberWest recently partnered with the Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES), a local streamkeeper group, to prepare and execute a riparian enhancement plan for Centre Creek.

tour participants eat lunch beside Centre Creek on TimberWest property

Tour participants enjoyed sandwiches in the shade of the stream bank while biologist and riparian management expert, Dave Clough, explained the planning process for the project. Faye Smith from the MVIHES was also available to describe the group’s participation in the Centre Creek project.

Last stop: Talking urban interface issues with Island Timberlands

At a recently harvested site in the Englishman River watershed, Kraig Urbanoski from Island Timberlands talks to the group about some of the challenges and successes they’ve had working with communities in the urban interface.

A big PFLA thanks to all the organizers, hosts and, of course, the participants who took time out of your busy schedules to join us.

For more photos from the 2013 field tour check out our Facebook page.