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British Columbia’s Inland Rainforest: Ecology, Conservation, and Management

By Susan Stevenson, Harold Armleder, Andre Arsenault, Darwyn Coxson, Craig DeLong and Michael Jull

November 4, 2013

Review By Andy MacKinnon

“These two streams at the foot of the hills have formed a wide alluvial, on which are forest trees of enormous size; the white cedars were from fifteen to thirty six feet girth, clean grown and tall in proportion, numbers were of the largest size and on walking round them, they appeared to have six or eight sides …. On the east side of the mountains, the trees were small, a stunted growth with branches to the ground; there we were men, but on the west side we were pigmies. The Travels of David Thompson 1784-1812.

So wrote the great explorer David Thompson about a part of the Canoe River, tributary to the Columbia, which may now be submerged beneath Kinbasket Reservoir. His description (quoted here on p. 100) may remind many of western North America’s coastal temperate rainforest, but the authors of this welcome book would like you to consider, instead, British Columbia’s inland rainforest.

What is British Columbia’s “inland rainforest?” Well, we have coastal rainforests because eastward-moving Pacific weather systems deposit their precipitation on the windward sides of northwest-southeast-trending Coast and Insular Mountains. We have an interior wet belt for just the same reason — though this time the precipitation falls on the windward side of the Rocky and Columbia Mountains. And within this interior wet belt is what Arsenault and Goward (2000) define as the “inland rainforest” — the wettest of the wet, the wet cool (ICHwk) and very wet cool (ICHvk) subzones of the Interior Cedar-Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone. This inland rainforest is the subject of this book.

The authors, many of whom are researchers with the British Columbia government or the University of Northern British Columbia, have put together a comprehensive introduction to and overview of these little-known ecosystems. The book begins with a description of the inland rainforest’s physical and biological characteristics. The authors then review the human history, and human use, of these ecosystems. They include chapters on biodiversity, climate change, and landscape patterns, and a concluding “Vision” for the future of the inland rainforest (310-326). Their Vision includes regular status reports on the inland rainforest; planning processes that involve all stakeholders; planning processes that incorporate adaptive management and that conceive of the inland rainforest, rather than watersheds or administrative units, as the planning unit; and a land zoning that reflects natural disturbance patterns, with 34 to 43 percent protected areas, about the same for a “structural diversity” zone, and 15 to 30 percent dedicated to “intensive management.”

A primary goal of the authors is to raise the profile of this important yet little-known biome. The inland rainforest is productive, biodiverse, and facing many threats: 7 percent of it has been alienated by reservoirs, agriculture, and municipalities, and an additional 16 percent has been logged. And the inland rainforest is only in British Columbia! Well, I think this book accomplishes that goal very well. The authors manage to incorporate a huge amount of current technical information in a well-organized and readable fashion. And it’s very well edited — one of those rare multi-authored works that reads as if it’s written in one voice. It’s also well illustrated, with black and white photos throughout and colour plates in the middle.

As with any book, there are a number of aspects I’d like to see done differently. One- or two-page essays occur throughout the text, but they’re not clearly demarcated, so the reader runs right from general text into essays without warning. And some aspects of the concluding call-to-arms — the Vision — seem arbitrary and not well supported by previous material.

Still, these are minor quibbles. This book does a terrific job of describing the social, environmental, and economic aspects of the inland rainforest, and covers a lot of technical material in a reader-friendly fashion. It also presents a compelling conservation case for this important and imperilled ecosystem.


Arsenault, A. and T. Goward. 2000. “Ecological Characteristics of Inland Rain Forests.” In Proceedings of a conference on the biology and management of species and habitats at risk, Kamloops, BC, 15-19 February 1991, vol. 1, edited by L.M. Darling, 437-439. Victoria: British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks; Kamloops: University College of the Cariboo.


British Columbia’s Inland Rainforest: Ecology, Conservation, and Management
By Susan Stevenson, Harold Armleder, Andre Arsenault, Darwyn Coxson, Craig DeLong, Michael Jull
Vancouver: UBC Press: 2011 456 pp, $39.95 paper