Red pine is Newfoundland and Labrador's rarest native coniferous tree. In Newfoundland, this species is at the northeastern limit of its range; it does not grow in Labrador. Its numbers on the Island are in decline, however-where once it grew over a wide range, now fewer than two dozen stands remain.
The 11-km2 West Brook Ecological Reserve about 14 km southwest of Springdale, was created specifically to protect some of the largest natural stands of red pine remaining in Newfoundland. It is in two parcels-2.4 km2 and 8.3 km2 on rolling hills near the headwaters of West Brook.
Red pine plays an important role in the ecosystem, growing in nutrient-poor, dry sites where it outperforms other native conifers. Today, natural regeneration and stand growth is poor in Newfoundland for several reasons:
Historically red pine once grew over the entire southern half of Newfoundland (as well as all through the Great Lakes watershed), at the species' northeastern extremity. Its extent was reduced following massive forest fires in 1890, 1904, and 1906. The trees made excellent railway ties and suited construction projects; commercial harvesting in the last century also played a role in the species' decline.
Forest fires are both harmful and important for the health and regeneration of red pine. Given the right conditions, high-intensity ground fire can help the species, because it burns off the litter that prevents seed regeneration. There have been no forest fires in the reserve area for almost a century-and building fires in the reserve is prohibited to prevent accidental fires.
Most of the red pine in West Brook ecological reserve are now 75 to 95 years old - a few date back more than two centuries. The reserve thus protects an important and old example of rare forest, and verifies the species' alarming lack of regeneration on the Island.
West Brook Ecological Reserve lies within the Central Newfoundland Forest-Northcentral subregion (872 KB). The area enjoys an almost "continental" climate-winters are cold, summers warm, and more than half the annual precipitation falls as snow. It also has the least foggy weather on the Island of Newfoundland.
Seven other tree species occur in the reserve, including black spruce, white pine, balsam fir, larch, white birch, and trembling aspen.
West Brook Ecological Reserve was established as provisional ecological reserve 1990, and given full ecological reserve status in 1993.
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