ECOLOGICAL CHANGE, FIRE HISTORY, AND CLIMATE: HOW LAND MANAGERS ARE USING PALEOECOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN THE ACTIVE MANAGEMENT OF ECOSYSTEMS
Paleoecological research including pollen, phytolith, charcoal, and tree ring analyses reveal that fire was an important driver in forest/woodland structure and function in the Strait of Georgia Lowlands, with increasing evidence emerging for the eco-cultural influence of First Nations people. This body of paleoecological work helps elucidate the range of variability occurring at the local level, often in contrast to regional conditions, stressing the importance of using multiple environmental proxies to interpret ecosystem history. Understanding how local sites have persisted or changed independently of the larger region is extremely important for determining the suitability of a site for conservation or restoration. A “Gestalt” approach to interpret multiple proxies is critical to the application of paleoecological research to ecological conservation and restoration activities.
Here we present recent research using multiple paleoecological proxies to understand 2500 years of climate change, ecosystem structure, and fire history for the Strait of Georgia Lowlands, British Columbia, with emphasis on southeast Vancouver Island, the southern Gulf Islands, and the Fraser Valley. This region is the most heavily populated and arguably the most biodiverse region of western Canada. This work shows how paleoecological data is influencing management planning and active management throughout the Pacific Northwest of North America.