🌿Tall tales from the Great Vancouver Forest

🌿Tall tales from the Great Vancouver Forest

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Date(s) - 21/Feb/2019
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Unitarian Centre (Hewett Hall)


🌿Tall tales from the Great Vancouver Forest – Ira Sutherland

The coastal temperate rainforests of western North America are among the tallest on Earth, but logging and urbanization have dramatically reduced their size and extent. In particular, historical forests of the Vancouver area, herein referred to as ‘The Great Vancouver Forest,’ may have once held the tallest trees on Earth but they appear to have largely vanished… What may have the forest once been like? Where are the remaining largest trees? How large are they, and what do they tell us about our city’s past? This presentation summarizes facts and insights from decades of citizen-driven research and exploration into old-growth forests of our region.

Indeed, old-growth forests containing monumental trees >100m in height once covered the region, and they have not entirely disappeared. Remnant groves of astonishing forests are found near sea-level while large tracts of ancient forests cover higher elevations. The Metro Vancouver watersheds conceal record-breaking trees, such as what was once the tallest Douglas-fir in BC at 94m in height. An overview of the largest trees are presented for Stanley Park, UBC, and the Seymour Valley. Using Lidar technology we located the tallest tree in the 5000 ha UBC Research Forest in Maple Ridge to be 74m and the tallest tree within the municipal limits of City of Vancouver to be 63m. Exploration of second-growth forests has revealed remarkable second-growth trees up to 77.5m in height. These younger trees continue to rapidly gain height and may one day rival the old-growth records.

This presentation provides an overview of the region’s remarkable natural history and clarifies the size of the tallest trees past and present. The Great Vancouver Forest is a shared history of the land on which we live. Acknowledging this history enriches our sense of place, and is a critical step toward reconciliation. The presentation will conclude with thoughts on how lessons from the past can inform our options to interacting with old-growth forests in the future.


Growing up among the tall trees in Kerrisdale, BC, Ira developed an appreciation and curiosity for forests early on. He has explored extensively in the forests and mountains around Vancouver and has travelled widely abroad, often by bicycle or on remote forest research expeditions. Ira holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Conservation from UBC (2012) and an MSc in Renewable Resources from McGill University (2015). His Masters thesis investigated the long-term recovery of ecosystem services following logging in BC coastal forests. After two years working in forestry and consulting arboriculture, Ira is now pursuing his PhD in Forestry as a Vanier Canada scholar at UBC. In an effort to engage the public to learn about old-growth forests he employs use of film, photography, and story-telling. He has been a member of the BC Big Tree Committee since 2011 and is the author of the online Vancouver Big Tree Hiking Guide (www.vancouversbigtrees.com).

Tea and cookies will be served from 7 to 7:30 pm. There will be opportunity for plant identification.

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