Fundy Model Forest – Building Scientific Knowledge at a Landscape Level for Nearly 30 Years

May 14, 2021 | Written BY : IMFN

In 1992 the Government of Canada launched the Model Forest Program, the foundation of which was to advance sustainable forest management (SFM) in Canada. Fundy Model Forest was one of the 10 original Model Forests, and is one of the four remaining Model Forests active in Canada today.

Model Forests are dynamic models of sustainability applied at a landscape scale. They encompass forests and other land uses, and employ a partnership-based approach and an inclusive governance process that adheres to six principles to promote integrated landscape and sustainable forest management.

Model Forests are designed to bridge the gap and strengthen relationships between the forest sector and the communities in which they operate.  The goal is to facilitate relationships between the forest sector and the organizations, communities and individuals they impact through dialogue and research.

Partnerships are the foundation of the Model Forest approach – through a collaborative forum partners identify problems and develop solutions collectively. In the case of Fundy Model Forest, building relationships between forest industry and stakeholders from across the landscape has been a key element for addressing forest management issues in New Brunswick. In addition, facilitating the use of data and sharing of knowledge, as a basis for sound decision-making has also been a strength of the Fundy Model Forest. From its inception, Fundy Model Forest has been a science-focused organization. It has worked diligently to identify gaps in knowledge and support researchers to fill those gaps. Over time, it became increasingly clear that natural resource management challenges on the landscape were the result of a lack of integration. Decision-making was based on site-specific knowledge and lacked the considerations of landscape level interactions. For example, how are forest-stand management practices affecting the freshwater ecosystem of the watershed? How are individual wood-lot owners having an impact on forest connectivity?

Over the past thirty years, Fundy Model Forest has worked with its partners to answer some of these questions and improve management outcomes both at the site and landscape level. It has worked to expand knowledge on forest management and place emphasis on understanding landscape level interactions in New Brunswick. With this objective in mind, Fundy Model Forest has engaged in multiple projects over the last three decades to fill scientific knowledge gaps, share knowledge and build relationships to improve forest and landscape management.

So what does bridging scientific knowledge gaps at a landscape level actually look like in practice?

For example, in 1993, the Hayward Brook watershed became a living laboratory to investigate the long-term impacts of forest practices on multiple plants and animals within the same landscape. A partnership was formed between the Universities of New Brunswick Fredericton and Saint John, University of Moncton, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Fundy National Park and J.D. Irving to assess pre-harvest conditions and post-harvest impacts of a host of indicators that included vertebrates, water quality, bryophytes and vascular plants. In 2017, sites were resurveyed to assess impacts, in many cases 20-years post-harvest. This long-term, scientific monitoring and collaborative forum for sharing the effects of forestry activities on the Hayward Brook aquatic ecosystem has facilitated stakeholder discussions and informed larger scale watershed management plans such as the Petitcodiac River Integrated Watershed Management Plan. The Petitcodiac Watershed is approximately 3000 square kilometers and it has more than 30 tributaries. It is home to more than 160,000 people and is one of the most heavily populated and fastest growing regions within the province of New Brunswick.

The Model Forest approach to long-term processes and multi-stakeholder research helped facilitate knowledge sharing not only in scientific journals, but also to inform the public and policy makers for the management of New Brunswick’s forests.

Mature coniferous stand managed on multiple woodlots in the Pollet River Watershed, New Brunswick

This multi-stakeholder approach to research continued through the The Pollett River Project. This project sought to overcome the perceived barrier to achieving biodiversity conservation on small private woodlots because of the fragmented nature of land ownership. Through this project, Fundy Model Forest and its partners worked with woodlot owners to consider landscape-level biodiversity within the watershed. This resulted in landowners working collectively to manage ecologically significant areas.

The Model Forest approach demonstrates that forest management is not just about trees. It is about entire ecosystems, including watersheds and the intersections of terrestrial, aquatic and human environments. Employing this holistic perspective of the landscape as well as engaging multiple stakeholders brings different values and perspectives to the table.

With the landscape level, perspective in mind, in 2007, Fundy Model Forest and other partners began working together on the Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon Forum to introduce a holistic approach to identifying and addressing root-cause issues facing wild Atlantic salmon in their freshwater ecosystems. Previously, the restoration efforts had been fragmented due to limited funding and human resources and little collaboration between groups with similar restoration goals. The Forum carried out collaborative science, assessing potential fragmentation that restricted access to habitat in the watersheds by spawning fish. Not only did the Forum generate scientific knowledge and help inform policymaking but it also improved public communications by hosting workshops and training sessions to improve terrestrial habitat for the salmon.

Fundy Model Forest continues to promote this landscape level and collaborative approach today. What was once a novel approach in the early 1990s, is now globally accepted as a consensus-building process emphasizing stakeholder involvement and integrating interactions to help address increasingly complex forest and landscape management issues, including water quality, sustainable forest management, biodiversity, climate change, forest degradation and restoration, wildland fires,  and sustainable livelihoods.

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