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article imageB.C. rainforest has botanical bounty of newly discovered species

By Karen Graham     Sep 16, 2018 in Science
Vancouver - Scientists and students from the University of Northern B.C. spent three years conducting a field study of the province's Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Whudujut Provincial Park, the only inland rainforest in the world. They found over 2,400 plant species.
The inland rainforest is a temperate rainforest in the Central Interior of British Columbia. It is part of the Interior Cedar Hemlock (ICH) zone of the biogeoclimatic zones system developed by the BC Ministry of Forests, in the Rocky Mountain Trench.
The term, biogeoclimatic zones system, was created by the British Columbia Ministry of Forests for the Canadian province's fourteen different ecosystems. This system is independent of other classification systems and was partly created for the purpose of managing forestry resources, but it's also used by the B.C. Ministry of Environment and other provincial agencies.
Government of British Columbia
For years, much of the research on plant biodiversity has focused on coastal and maritime ecosystems, and in particular, the province's coastal temperate rainforests. But B.C. is the only place in the world that has an inland temperate rainforest, and this unique ecosystem has gotten very little attention.
Things changed when in March 2016, British Columbia's government announced the creation of a new provincial park, known as the Ancient Forest park or Chun T’oh Wudujut, as it is called in the local Lheidli language. The park is located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Prince George near the community of Dome Creek, and it has a geographical area of 112 square kilometers (42.3 square miles), slightly smaller than the city of Vancouver.
Wheelchair assessible boardwalk leads into the Ancient Forest.
Wheelchair assessible boardwalk leads into the Ancient Forest.
Michael Stanyer/Govt. of B.C.
With the announcement, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak, in a statement, said: “The establishment of this park — home to some of the largest old-growth cedar trees in the province — reflects the uniqueness of B.C.’s world-renowned park system. This spectacular setting will now be preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy.”
New biodiversity study
With the designation of the Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Provincial Park in 2016, a team of researchers jumped at the chance to do a detailed study of biodiversity in the inland rainforest. Now in its third year, and after "trekking through wetlands, knee-deep in swamps, exploring unknown valleys and bushwhacking through to the top of mountain peaks," the researchers have some amazing things to share.
UNBC researchers have not only studied the biodiversity of the new park  but the economic and commun...
UNBC researchers have not only studied the biodiversity of the new park, but the economic and community impact that it brings to the region.
Dr. Darwyn Coxson, Ecosystem Science and Management Professor at UNBC, says, “The number of species we found, the number of rare species, and the number of new species has been a real surprise. We knew there would be new finds there, but our project, getting off the roads into remote backcountry areas has resulted in many new findings, from areas that have not been visited by scientists before.”
UNBC scientists collaborated with UBC botanists Trevor Goward and Curtis Björk, leading experts on rare plants. Dr. Coxson recalls when the researchers first came upon a part of the forest near Tree Beard Waterfalls. "It was a moment to knock [Björk's] socks off, not literally but almost," Coxson told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.
"The spray zone around the waterfall had such a richness of species I think in that first afternoon he described 400 species." Those 400 species are just a small number of the more than 2,400 species in the Upper Fraser River Watershed, commonly called the Robson Valley.
“This is an amazing total for such a small part of the province,” explains Coxson. “It includes many species that are new to this part of British Columbia and indeed Canada, and a surprisingly high number of species that will be new to science. This includes new species of mosses, lichens, and vascular plants. This will be an exciting story for the scientific community in British Columbia.”
Anastrepta orcadensis  found in the Ancient Forest/Chun T oh Provincial Park.
Anastrepta orcadensis, found in the Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Provincial Park.
The results of the research were summarized during a talk by Björk, "Tiny Lichens to giant trees: An Inventory of the Robson Valley flora," at UNBC on Friday, Sept. 14. It’s part of the weekly lecture series at the Natural Resources & Environmental Studies Institute at UNBC.
All the unidentified botanical samples will be sent for genetic analysis to confirm whether they are new species, so we may be hearing some more exciting news. "We're very lucky to have such a rich biodiversity heritage in British Columbia and I think it's important we pass that on to future generations," said Coxson.
More about British columbia, inland rainforest, Ancient ForestChun T'oh Whudujut Provincial Park, new plant species, Science
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