Reforestation and ecosystem rehabilitation at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown

Article / April 23, 2019 / Project number: 18-0429

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By Megan Betts, Environment Services Branch, 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown

Gagetown, New Brunswick — In the spring of 2019, a major reforestation project that has seen thousands of trees planted over the past decade throughout the 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown’s Range and Training Area will continue. Its aim is to repair damage to the ecosystem and animal habitat caused by large-scale forest clearing at the base that began more than 20 years ago.

The trees and shrubs continue to be provided by the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) and are planted by base staff, contractors and summer students in areas that would benefit environmentally from being reforested.

The main areas targeted for re-forestation are watercourses, wetlands, and riparian zones (the areas surrounding wetlands and watercourses). Not only are the areas planted considered to be environmentally sensitive but they also provide a variety of ecosystem services such as improved water quality and soil retention, as well as habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife – some of which are species at risk.

Seven thousand football fields’ worth of land for rehabilitation

5 CDSB Gagetown’s Environmental Services Branch is targeting new areas for re-forestation. In the mid-1990s, approximately 7,000 hectares of forest was cleared as part of an initiative to open areas for training; however, the vegetation and topsoil accumulated during the clearing process was piled into long line berms, making the area unsuitable for training with vehicle manoeuvres.

To put it into perspective, 7,000 hectares is 70 square kilometres – that’s 17,297 acres or 7,000 football fields.

While vegetation has since grown on the berms, the areas between the berms are sparsely vegetated, making them highly susceptible to erosion and they provide minimal wildlife habitat. In previous years, to help reduce erosion, the berms were leveled to spread the topsoil and the areas were seeded. This technique was costly, had variable rates of success, and had its own environmental issues.   

New partnership to research forest, land and habitat reclamation

2018 marked the launch of a new initiative between the University of New Brunswick, CFS and 5 CDSB Gagetown’s Environmental Service Branch.

Researchers are investigating possible reclamation of barren, essentially lifeless sites at the Base using a number of what are known as early successional forest species such as hardy trees and shrubs. Early successional species can be introduced to help return the ecology of an area that has suffered damage, through natural or human causes, to a healthier state.

A variety of robust early successional forest species best suited for the dry, nutrient-poor soil at the sites of concern have been identified and are currently being grown in greenhouses at CFS and will be planted in the spring of 2019.

Some of the species include varieties of red, pitch, and jack pine as well as choke and pin cherry. If successful, the project will identify which, if any, species can be used to successfully reforest these degraded and difficult growing sites.

Algae and fungus applications investigated

To improve the trees’ ability to establish at these sites, two greenhouse treatments, algae extract and mycorrhizal fungi inoculation, have been applied to investigate if it will improve plant survival at the sites in comparison to the control groups that did not receive the treatments.

The objective of the research is to find a more environmentally sound and cost-effective method of revegetating the vast barren areas between the berms.

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