Just like people, forests go through different life stages, and each stage has its own distinctive features. Not all types of forest age the same way, either. Some tree species can live for centuries, while Alberta’s native tree species follow a different pattern – they can live for up to a maximum of 150 years before succumbing to old age, parasites or disease. However, investigation into historical fire patterns has shown that without forest firefighters, most forests in Alberta would burn every 50-100 years. In this scenario, most of Alberta’s forests would be less than 50 years old, with patches of mature forest that survived fires scattered among the new growth.
Forests provide different benefits at different stages of maturity. Younger trees capture carbon at a greater rate than mature forests. Some animals thrive best in established forests, while others do best in younger ones. Some species even prefer areas that have been recently harvested or burned. The key to making our forests the best they can be is helping to maintain a balance of different tree species and ages across the province. Plans for forest management in Alberta, which include activities like planting, harvesting, controlled burns and fire prevention, are designed to help maintain that balance.