Forest Eco-Systems |
History of Cathedral
by Kate Shepherd & Jamie Woodford
This area was given to the province of British Columbia by the H.R.
MacMillan Export Company in 1944 as a way to preserve an incredible
stand of trees. It is now one of British Columbia’s MacMillan
A few hundred years ago a fire destroyed all but a few giant trees in
this forest. Protected from the heat by their thick, corky bark, the
surviving veterans provided seeds that have grown into the present
Cathedral Grove is home to a wide variety of plant species and
wildlife. It stretches over 136 hectares of forest land. This land
provides a home to a wide variety of trees and other plant life. Some
of the trees found in this area are Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar,
Western Hemlock, Broadleaf Maple, and Balsam Fir. The Douglas Fir is
the dominating species in this region. Some of these giant trees are
estimated to be around 800 years old, with the majority ranging form
300-400 years old.
Cathedral Grove is considered an old-growth forest. An old-growth
forest contains live and dead trees of various sizes, species,
composition, and age class structure. Old-growth forests contain large
trees of the species typical to the area, a wide variation of trees
and spacing, an accumulation of large dead standing and fallen trees,
multiple canopy layers, canopy laps and understory patchiness, as well
as elements of decay such as broken or deformed tops or trunks and
root decay. The tops of the trees form a cathedral-like ceiling high
above, while the thick tree trunks rise from the floor of delicate
On New Years day, 1997,
a powerful wind funnelled through the narrow bend in Cameron Valley
making its way to Cathedral Grove. The high winds and wet soil
conditions were too much for the forest to handle. This resulted in a
“wind throw”, which left trees uprooted while the stems were shattered
and thrown in the air. By blowing over trees the wind has created
small openings in this forest. Through these openings the sun is able
to reach the various plant life on the forest floor. This windstorm
has created many changes in Cathedral Grove’s ecosystem.
Natural regeneration is
slowly restoring Cathedral Grove’s natural beauty. What you will see
in Cathedral Grove today is a different face than the Cathedral Grove
of the past. Today there are tree logs lying on the ground and various
bushes, ferns, and mosses growing on and around the logs. These fallen
logs are commonly referred to as nurse logs. The decaying wood of
nurse logs absorbs rainwater, provides moisture, supplies nutrients,
and provides an elevated platform above the shade of forest floor
plants that contributes to the natural regeneration of the forest.
Today new paths have been built and fences have been put up. This has
been done so people do not walk along or between the fallen logs.
Walking through these sensitive areas disturbs the lifecycles of
plants, mosses, lichens, and fungi, which are attempting to grow.
Careless human exploration can destroy these sensitive growing areas.
In the picture above you can see a fallen tree that has been cut in
order to clear the path. Behind the fallen tree you are able to see
part of a fence that has been built to help protect Cathedral Grove’s
sensitive areas from human disturbance.
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Directions to Cathedral Grove
· From Nanaimo, head north on the Inland Island Hwy.
· Turn left on Hwy. 4 (the Port Alberni highway).
· The park is just past the west end of Cameron Lake.
· The 50-kilometer drive takes about half an hour.
· The road is narrow and twisting.
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