Prompt reforestation of harvested areas is key to sustainable forest management. This ensures the forest maintains its ability to grow trees, and provides the young trees with a head start against competing vegetation to reduce the need for manual or chemical brushing treatments. Stands are considered free growing when they reach a stage where their density, health and height make them less vulnerable to competition and more likely to reach maturity.
Prompt reforestation controls invasive non-native plants, which can be difficult to control and have a significant impact on timber production and agriculture. They can also alter the structure of natural plant communities and threaten biodiversity.
Canfor uses ecologically suitable species to restore all harvested areas to healthy, native free-growing forests promptly. We determine the species before we harvest, basing the choice on ecosystem type and potential regeneration risks such as frost, flooding or heavy snow.
We also use natural regeneration of local tree species where appropriate to maintain genetic diversity and ensure the trees are adapted to local conditions so they are able to withstand natural disturbance events and agents.
In 2015, we planted 78 million trees on our tenures – almost 12 million more than in 2014. Canfor owns and operates the J.D. Little Forest Centre near Prince George, which has been operating since 1982 and produces about 14% of our seedling requirements. It grows 8.5 to nine million hybrid white spruce trees every year using Class A improved seed produced in a seed orchard. In addition to the trees we grow ourselves, we buy seedlings from three independent nurseries.
In 2015, a new greenhouse was put into production at the J.D. Little Forest Centre to replace one that collapsed under heavy snow in 2009. As a result, we were able to produce close to 10 million seedlings – the most in more than 20 years. Since 1982, the nursery has produced more than 270 million seedlings.
The nursery process simulates three years in the natural environment. Seeds are sown in greenhouses in March, they grow until July when shade cloths are used to restrict daylight, encouraging them to bud. In mid-October they are lifted, packaged in bundles and frozen. They are thawed in spring and planted within a week. About 90% of the seedlings survive out planting in the bush.
Canfor operations in Alberta and British Columbia use genetically improved seed grown at either the Huallen Seed Orchard near Grande Prairie, Alberta, or at the Vernon Seed Orchard Company site near Vernon, BC, which we own in partnership with two other forest companies.
Improved seed is created through the controlled breeding of trees that exhibit superior attributes in the wild. There is no genetic modification; it involves the careful cross-pollination of trees that exhibit desired characteristics such as fast growth or natural disease resistance. In Alberta, approximately 50% of Canfor harvested sites are planted with genetically improved stock, and in British Columbia a little more than half of our seedlings are grown from improved seed.
Tree improvement increases genetic diversity on the landscape because the trees come from a wide geographic area, and the parents are tested to ensure they are suited biologically for the areas where they will be planted.