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Great Bear Rainforest :: Photo Essay :: 7

Thumbnail image. Photo © Tim Ennis Photography spacer Thumbnail image. Photo © Tim Ennis Photography
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Grave and bones

Many people, myself included, are increasingly interested in understanding these complex ecosystems through the lenses of both science AND what is commonly referred to as “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” or “Indigenous Knowlege”. For example, many if not all indigenous cultures recognize the interconnectedness of all things. One of many phrases that sum up this idea is “hishuk ish ts’awalk” which in the language of Nuu-Chah-Nulth peoples on the west coast of Vancouver Island means “everything is one.

The science of ecology increasingly tends to draw the same conclusion. For example, coastal temperate rainforest ecologists such as Dr Tom Reimken have explored the role of salmon in fertilizing the forests that grow adjacent to salmon-bearing watercourses in the fertile valleys of this region. Spawning salmon are caught by bears, wolves and other predators, and dragged into the forest to be consumed. During times of abundance, only the best parts of the salmon are consumed and the rest is left on the forest floor to rot. At large scales, this equates to a significant fertilization of forests, with marine derived nitrogen from the body of the salmon. Other scientists have correlated the annual growth increments in these trees to the strength of that year’s salmon run. This has been used to paint a rough picture of the relative abundance of salmon based on tree rings back into the 1700’s and beyond. Thus the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments blur into an interconnected whole.

Depicted here are the bones of a salmon carcass that was so dragged into the forest by a bear or wolf, partially eaten and left. It just so happened that this particular event took place in a river-side graveyard where time-of-contact First Nations peoples were laid to rest. The graveyard in this case has been consumed by a second growth forest. Mosses cling to tombstones which have shifted and tilted in response to the expanding root systems.

A closer inspection of the tombstones indicated that an unusual majority were young children. Their deaths may have been the result of an disease such as small pox. Wave after wave of epidemic diseases such as this decimated Indigenous populations throughout the coast, who had not previously been exposed to them. In some cases, each epidemic successively reduced their populations by 50-75% or more. Often only one or two people from an entire village survived.

Currently, nearly every native language on the BC coast runs a risk of extinction within several generations. Nearly every watershed includes at least one extinct or endangered salmon run, and Grizzlies are considered a “Threatened” species in BC, and have been extirpated over most of their former range in North America.

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YES Story button spacer :: UPDATE
Historic Accord Protects B.C. Forests
First Nations are gaining more control over their traditional lands while considerations of sustainability are becoming central to forestry planning.

YES Archive button spacer :: SIGN OF LIFE
Rainforest Logging Shutdown in BC
The British Columbia logging company MacMillan Bloedel announced January 8, 1997, that it is shutting down its logging operations in the Clayoquot Sound rainforest, BC.



Tim Ennis Flickr icon Photographer Tim Ennis is Director of Land Stewardship, BC Region, for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a non-profit group that protects biodiversity in Canada through various mechanisms, most notably including direct land purchases. Several of the images here are taken of NCC lands.

Communicating the beauty of this region and raising awareness are Tim's main goals with his photographs: "I hope to motivate people to help in whatever way they can to join in the preservation of biodiversity (and cultural diversity) here in British Columbia, or where ever home may be for you!"

See more of Tim's photos of the Great Bear Rainforest, and the rest of his amazing work on Flickr, and at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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