Aerial seeding for forest restoration conducted over Lac Seul Forest
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
This year’s annual aerial seeding for forest restoration over the Lac Seul Forest was conducted from March 4th until March 8th. “The purpose is to ensure enough desirable tree seedlings germinate to establish a new forest stand, and help ensure that forest regeneration objectives described in the Forest Management Plan are met,” shared the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The process of aerial seeding has been used since the 1960’s to successfully regenerate Crown forests in Ontario, shared the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. They added that even though seeding has been used for a number of different tree species in the province, it is most commonly used for regenerating Jack Pine and Black Spruce in northern Ontario. Regeneration refers to the establishment of a forest stand (group of trees of similar age), following a harvest or other forest disturbance.
The Ministry shared that aerial seeding for Jack Pine and Black Spruce is typically done in late winter or early spring to ensure the availability of adequate moisture, from snowmelt or spring rainfall, to allow for successful germination of seeds and subsequent establishment and survival of tree seedlings.
The best time to aerial seed in and around the Sioux Lookout area is between mid-February and mid-March, shared Bob David, the general manager for Obishikokaang Resources Corporation (ORC), the company responsible for the silviculture program on the Lac Seul Forest. He mentioned that this year’s aerial seeding was carried out in eight operating units, including: Airport, Broadcast, Dominion, Goodie, Kathlyn, Marene, Race and Warship areas. David stated that this year, 24,109,200 viable Jack Pine seeds, and 4,424,400 viable spruce seeds were seeded on a total area of 792.6 hectares.
David mentioned that each year, the majority of seeds used are Jack Pine, as the species can be successfully renewed using this aerial seeding on a wide range of upland sites. He added, “The Lac Seul Forest Management Plan describes the desired renewal requirement for areas that have been harvested. We expect that the areas that were seeded will mature into healthy, well stocked mature forested areas providing future habitat for boreal wildlife species as well as future areas for recreation and forest products.”
The Ministry shared that aerial seeding involves the use of aircraft equipped with mechanical seed broadcast equipment to sow seed of desirable tree species evenly across a harvested area. They added, “Foresters may prescribe one or more of a variety of regeneration treatments, either alone or in combination, to ensure successful regeneration of harvested areas.
“These include natural regeneration methods (examples include natural seeding from existing trees on a site, or root suckering) and artificial regeneration methods (examples include planting, or the recently observed aerial seeding operations).
“Successful regeneration of Crown forests following harvest is necessary to maintain sustainability and ensure they continue to provide the broad range of benefits to Ontarians.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry state on the Government of Ontario website that a sustainable forest management provides for the long-term health of Ontario’s forests, while providing social, economic and environmental benefits to Ontarians. They state that close to 90 percent of Ontario forests are publicly owned, known as Crown lands, and 44 percent of these Crown lands are managed forests. Forest management activities within this area are required by law to be managed sustainably.
The website further states that sustainable forest management helps Ontario’s forests to remain healthy and productive, while supporting a strong forest industry and providing additional employment opportunities for forest workers at a time of year where field silviculture operations such as tree planting are not yet underway. It also yields forest products (lumber, paper, fuel, medicines, chemicals and more), conserve biodiversity, enhance or protect wildlife habitat, watersheds, and other values, and reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases which is a major cause of climate change, support Ontario communities, provide recreation opportunities (hiking, hunting, fishing and more), and a healthy living environment.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry shared, “Aerial seeding is one method foresters can use to ensure enough seeds of desirable tree species reach the best areas for germination and growth. It provides foresters more control over species composition, and a more uniform distribution of regenerating trees across a harvested area, than might be achieved if the area were left for natural regeneration.” They added, “In comparison to ground-based seeding or planting operations, aerial seeding is sometimes a more practical and efficient way to regenerate large areas that may have seasonal or other access limitations on the ground. It may also be more cost effective than planting since it avoids the costs of growing, storing, transporting and planting nursery-grown trees.”
The next aerial seeding operation for Lac Seul will take place in 2022, around the same time of the year as this year’s activities.