Millennia-spanning forest study garners international environmental award

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin, with contributions from Alina Fisher

Duncan McLaren sampling lake bottom sediments near Fish Egg Inlet in BC, April 2016. Photo: Johnny Johnson.

Outstanding research in ecology was announced this week by the Ecological Society of America. Brian Starzomski, professor in the School of Environmental Studies and Darcy Mathews, assistant professor, along with his team of UVic post-docs—Andrew Trant (now at U of Waterloo), Wiebe Nijland, and PhD student Kira Hoffman—were recognized for their contribution to the fields of plant ecology and biogeography. The Ecological Society of America (ESA) announced the William Skinner Cooper Award on March 1 for their research study "Intertidal resource use over millennia enhances forest productivity," which was published in Nature Communications last year.

“We’re thrilled to win this award,” says Starzomiski, who also holds the Ian McTaggart Cowan Professorship in Biodiversity Conservation and Ecological Restoration, “the Coastal First Peoples are so tightly intertwined with their land: they have intimate knowledge of these sites that allowed them to enhance, rather than reduce, the production of these ecosystems.”

The Environmental Studies team and colleagues in the Starzomski Lab—including co-authors Duncan McLaren (UVic anthropology) and Trisalyn Nelson (Arizona State University)— found that 13,000 years of repeated human occupation by coastal First Nations has had the opposite effect one might expect, enhancing rather than depleting temperate rainforest productivity. 

Named for pioneering physiographic ecologist William S. Cooper, the W.S. Cooper Award from the Ecological Society of America honours the authors of an outstanding publication in the fields of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or plant distribution along environmental gradients.

The group will accept this prestigious award at the ESA’s annual meeting in Portland, OR on August 7.

Research funding was provided through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Hakai, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.


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Keywords: forestry, Indigenous, anthropology, environment, plants, research, sustainability

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