Global warming hits yellow cedar

Posted by Rumin Mann
February 25th, 2010

Dan Mclean and Tanya Foster are second year Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students at Castlegar’s Selkirk College.

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In the Kootenays, we live in a very lush, forested valley.  Most don’t think too much about what makes up that forest, the many different types of trees.  Some are quite common like the trembling aspen and Douglas fir and others quite rare like the yellow cedar.  Although rare locally, it’s actually quite common on the West Coast and is an ecologically, economically, and culturally important tree.  The yellow cedar has great significance for NW native peoples, dating back at least 3,000 years.  They made canoes, paddles, masks out of the wood, clothing, hats, blankets, from the inner bark, and roofing material from the outer bark.  Even roots were used to make baskets and cradles.  It seems like nothing went to waste.  They identified this tree as ‘the tree of life.’

Yellow cedar has experience a dramatic decline in Alaska and British Columbia but not due to insect or disease.  The yellow cedar decline has coincided with the beginning of the current climatic warming after the 1850’s.  It would appear that this tree is particularly vulnerable to climate change.  This is a species that evolved when snow cover was more consistent and early snow provided an insulating blanket for their roots before winter temperatures plummeted.  Global warming seems to have produced winters in some areas with less snow and therefore little to no blanket for the roots.

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