In our forests we are mindful of what we consider “ghost species”. These are species that were part of these ecosystems in the recent past, but no longer are. We wonder about a number of things with these missing pieces of the puzzle – including how the functions of the forests are different because of their absence. Until recently, Western White Pine, was one of our ghost species. Though this beautiful pine was never dense in the Coast Range, it was once widespread throughout the Coast Range. That all changed in about 1900 when, so we’ve been told, a blister rust accidentally came to North America hitch hiking on nursery stock that was shipped to Vancouver BC from Asia. Before long, the White Pine of the Coast Range became a ghost species. Thanks to ongoing research and selective breeding, a rust resistant line of pine is now available. Since about 2005, we have experimented with reintroducing the pine to our Timber forest. As shown in this photo, they are thriving – growing well and successfully dodging the deadly munching of elk and deer. Much more work remains, but, for now, we are pleased to be able to shorten our list of ghosts by one species.
One of Aldo Leopold’s most oft quoted suggestions is that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to hang onto all of the pieces. We expect that he would not object to our extending the idea by proposing that the second rule of intelligent tinkering is to know as much as possible about what all of the pieces are – and were, and a third rule of working to appropriately restore pieces that have been lost.
So, here’s to banishing one ghost and welcoming the pine back into the mix! Now, what ghost is next?