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Check out MTRI’s latest episode in the Wandering Through Ancient Woods series: New Eyes and a Fresh Perspective

Old growth forests are special ecosystems created when forests reach an old age and develop unique characteristics that younger forests don’t have. Old-growth forests don’t only have old trees, but they tend to have less trees that are more spaced out, lots of standing and fallen dead trees, and they support many unique species of wildlife. These forests are rare in Nova Scotia’s Wabanaki forest because of centuries of land development and forestry. Estimates vary but experts generally agree that less than 1% of the province remains as old growth. Most of the remaining forests are small and isolated, threatening their existence further. Kespukwitk contains the province’s largest remaining intact forests, roughly 37% of provincially identified old growth forest.

At the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, we are interested in exposing the value of old growth. The video series, Wandering Through Ancient Woods, highlights the multiple ways we are supporting education and conservation surrounding old growth forests.

In the most recent episode, a Land Based Learning class from the Region of Queen’s County had the opportunity to get outside of the classroom and experience an old growth forest. Students traveled to 4-Mile Stillwater Trail near Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site and learned about the ecological features researchers use to identify old growth stands. Watch the newest video in the series here:

Old growth is classified using the ages of trees in the stand and characteristics like forest composition. Land based learning allows students to learn practical skills like species ID and develop a sense of place and belonging. Having a connection with the land and with one’s community can help youth build resiliency in the face of climate change and widespread habitat and species loss. 

We often think of ourselves as separate to nature but traditional ways of knowing saw humans as disciples of the land and of other lifeforms, with a place within nature as stewards and knowledge holders. Forest management is one way we can steward the land in a positive way, but it is an important job with many actors and potential pitfalls. Join our conversation around forest management in the first episode of Wandering Through Ancient Woods. This episode was filmed at Asitu’lɨsk (Windhorse Farm), a beautiful location in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia that offers recreation opportunities surrounded by ancient forests. 

Policy is a valuable tool for protecting our forests and in August 2022 a new old growth forest policy called ‘An Old Growth Forest Policy for Nova Scotia’ was enacted. The policy aims to identify and protect old growth on Crown Lands. Listen to Dr. Peter Duinker from Dalhousie University discuss the importance and future of old growth forests in Nova Scotia.

Eastern Hemlock is one tree species found in old growth forests that is important to a variety of wildlife species and to us! Eastern Hemlock can provide habitat for squirrels and nesting birds and adds to forest tree canopies, blocking sunlight, regulating our atmosphere, and keeping the forest cool. 

In the Mi’kmaq language Eastern Hemlock is known as gsu’sgug and they have used Eastern Hemlock needles, roots, and bark for medicines, teas, and as a dye. Learn more about the knowledge we can gain from the land, if we stop and listen for it, in the third episode of Wandering Through Ancient Woods.

Thank you for reading, watching, and engaging with our work. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

Marie Racioppa (she/her)
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute
Email: [email protected]