We are proud to be working with Parks Canada in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We are going to “bring back the boreal” by planting and raising awareness of the causes of deforestation.
The support provided by tentree, in partnership with Parks Canada, enables the planting of balsam fir for forest restoration. In a project called Bring Back the Boreal, we helped Parks Canada engage visitors and raise awareness about the importance of reforestation. Bring Back the Boreal was a five-year Parks Canada project at Cape Breton Highlands National Park to restore boreal forest through moose management and tree planting initiatives. Objectives of the project included encouraging 8000 visitors in tree planting, planting 57,000 trees, introducing new partners, and reaching 10,000 people through social media.
Total Trees Planted
Located on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada – Cape Breton Highlands National Park is known for its spectacular highlands and ocean scenery. The Park is home to three distinct forest regions. In the valleys and coastal areas you’ll find the ancient hardwoods and lush softwoods of the Acadian forest. Way up on the highland plateau are the boggy wetlands and rocky barrens of the taiga. Between the two, lies the boreal forest, which covers one third of the park and is normally dominated by balsam fir.
The boreal forest of Cape Breton Highlands National Park is changing. What was once a thriving forest ecosystem is now being replaced by large areas of grass.
The boreal forest is often naturally disturbed by insect outbreaks and fire. When the older mature trees die, they open up the canopy for younger trees to sprout and grow. This continuous cycle of destruction and re-growth is how a healthy boreal forest maintains a natural balance.
In the 1970-80s, a natural outbreak of spruce budworm consumed vast areas of balsam fir and white spruce. Young balsam fir and white birch grew quickly to form the future forest. With this abundance of new growth to eat and no significant natural predator or disease, the moose population exploded and stalled the natural regeneration of this forest. Instead of a new forest taking hold, grass is growing in its place. Once grass starts to take over an area, it is difficult for anything else to grow. Grassland has replaced a third of the park’s boreal forest and is growing. Species that are characteristic of the forest are struggling, including several provincial and federal species at risk.
Parks Canada’s five-year Bring Back the Boreal project worked to restore the forest health of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Monitoring has shown that fewer fir and spruce seedlings are present and that the thick layer of grass along the park’s popular Skyline trail is preventing any new trees from becoming established. In 2015, a 5-hectare moose exclosure was built (the size of 9 football fields) to keep moose out and to protect the 50,000 tiny balsam fir seedlings that will be planted inside.
By planting trees such as native balsam fir inside the protection of an exclosure, we hope to begin to restore the boreal forest in this damaged area and allow a rich diversity of forest species to flourish once again. For more information visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ns/cbreton/plan/foret-forest.aspx
Parks Canada places priority on engaging Canadians and visitors in their national parks. The project encourages visitors and volunteers to plant trees as part of boreal forest restoration. Giving participants a hands-on experience allowed them to connect with nature and become invested in healthy forests worldwide. A large portion of the tree planting initiative along the Skyline trail focused on recruiting and engaging visitors as they hike through the exclosure, on their way to experience our world famous views.
Sharing the story of the boreal forest of Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a priority of the Bring Back the Boreal project. Through tree planting, visitors, youth, communities, and partners were introduced to what is happening in our boreal forest and our efforts to restore it.
The health of the boreal forest in Cape Breton Highlands National Park is in decline. Forest species such as the Canada lynx and American marten are struggling with the loss of habitat, while forest-dependent birds are being replaced by grassland species. The forest is unable to regenerate on its own. Parks Canada and tentree are working with the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR), other partners and neighbouring communities to plant trees and help restore the health of this important ecosystem so that we don’t lose our boreal forest to grassland.
Protecting and restoring the land in and around the trail.
Educating Canadians on the importance of planting trees in our own backyard.
Ensuring the long term success of the Boreal Forest in Cape Breton.
We believe it’s very important to work with the local community on planting initiatives.
Our primary focus is to plant non-invasive, endemic trees. We want everything to be as it was hundreds of years ago. We also source all seedlings locally to ensure that the seedling was sourced from local native species.
Highland Balsam Fir
The balsam fir is well known as a popular Christmas tree species. It is the main coniferous species browsed (eaten) by moose. When overbrowsed, balsam fir saplings will produce an excess of buds, distorting their usual conical shape into a thick sphere shape. Balsam fir are also the most susceptible species of tree to infestations of spruce budworm, despite the name of the insect.
The seedlings we are planting come from seeds collected in the highlands of Cape Breton. They were collected in the 1980s, from large mature trees that managed to survive the devastating spruce budworm outbreak. These seedlings are suited to Cape Breton’s rugged environment and harsh growing conditions.
Gather Seedlings from Greenhouse
First we must gather seedlings from the greenhouse, truck them over to the site, and then we often use quads to help bring large loads closer to the planters.
Put Trees in Planting Bags
Planters put the trees into planting bags and make the trek down the skyline trail to our planting site.
Plant Using a Tree Planting Dibble Bulb Planter
Using a Dibble Bulb Planter instead of a shovel allows for ease of use on tougher ground and larger seedlings. The long bar allows you to easily put all your weight onto the shovel.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Cape Breton Highlands National Park works very closely with partners like tentree and the Mi’kmaq community through the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) since we share a common interest in restoring forest health for future generations. Local schools and community groups are also invited to assist with tree planting efforts.