When I was told that I will be sent to work at an aquarium on the west coast of Vancouver Island, my mind was full of cold water diving and marine critters that I will find underwater. Nothing prepared me for the towering trees of the BC’s temperate rainforest that welcomed me.
Before coming to Ucluelet, BC, I was under the impression that all rainforests are tropical, but the indoor terrestrial rainforest garden at the aquarium, educational signs along myriads of trails close to town, and free educational classes hosted by Raincoast Education Society and other local NGOs soon proved me to be wrong.
This 800-year-old rainforest receives an average rainfall of 3.4 meters annually. Tall and straight Sitka Spruces grown up to 90 meters in height and shielding the rest of the forest from salt sprays of the waves. Large 1,000-year-old Western Red Cedars are "the cornerstone of Northwest Coast aboriginal culture". Western Hemlocks offer their young leaves as a tasty citrus-flavoured source of Vitamin C.
When a tree falls, it becomes a Nursing Log where the decaying wood provides nutrients for young saplings while giving them a height advantage over saplings growing from the ground.
This forest is intrinsically connected to the ocean and my work as a marine biologist by the salmons. Salmons are anadromous: they are born in freshwater and live up to a year sheltered in the nutrient-rich streams of the rainforest; they then move out to the ocean where they mature and bring rich nutrients from the ocean back to their birth stream where they will spawn.
When I am troubled, I like to go for a stroll in this amazing rainforest to listen to the birds, marvel at the life force of all its inhabitants, and wonder what wildlife I will find under the shadows next.
By: Lisa Chen