Local ecologist Bob Brett has been recording and cataloguing Whistler trees for years and last Sunday (oct. 7) all of his tireless work paid off with the discovery of Whistler's oldest living tree.
"Over the past three weeks I've taken 103 core samples from 16 sites all around the Callaghan and last Sunday I counted one especially good Yellow-Cedar specimen," explained Brett. "Although my increment borer wasn't long enough to reach the middle of the tree, the core sample still contains1,017rings. That means it started growing before the year 1000 A.D which makes this tree 1,100 to 1,200 years-old, the oldest living tree documented in Whistler."
Brett says this particular tree was so wide that his longest bore couldn't reach the middle of the tree, meaning it's even older than what his core sample recorded. The tree is also unique because many large living trees have a rotten core but this particular tree is healthy throughout and produced the best quality core sample that he has seen in such a large tree.
"The reason this is exciting news is because even though many other trees are likely well over 1,000 years old, this sample is among the first good-quality physical evidence that Whistler is home to such old specimens. We are no longer need to rely on estimates," said Brett. "Discovering something over 1,000 years old is like jumping into a different world."
An older tree was recorded on Whistler Mountain with 1,071 tree rings, but was cut down in 1998 and is no longer living.
Brett's discovery was part of a tree age project through AWARE and funded by the Community Foundation of Whistler. The goal was to find out more about the age ranges of uncut forests in the Callaghan and to help determine how to manage the old growth forest in the area.
According to provincial regulations, old growth forests in Whistler include trees that are 250 years and older. Brett says the average age of uncut forests at low elevations in Whistler is between 300 to 400 years old. That makes it difficult for loggers to meet mandated quotas in the Whistler area without cutting down old growth trees.
Brett hopes his findings will spread awareness about the different types of old growth forest that exist in Whistler so loggers and municipal groups are equipped with better information to make more informed decisions.
Brett will be announcing his findings at the AWARE Old Forest Symposium held on Sunday and Monday (Oct. 14 and 15). The event kicks off on Sunday with a talk at Millennium Place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on "What are old forests and why are they important?"
On Monday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., guest researchers and scientists will present "Forest Ecology 101" at Nicklaus North Golf Course. Scientists, including Brett will be on hand to share their research and knowledge. Later in the day participants can hop on a bus tour of the Ancient Cedars area from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.