Enhancing Forest Resilience through the Mother Tree Project in British Columbia

Planting the Alex Fraser research site. Image credit: Courtesy of Liam Jone

Enhancing Forest Resilience through the Mother Tree Project in British Columbia

Organization University of British Columbia
Bioregion Northwest Intermountain Conifer Forests (NA14)
Category Nature Conservation

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Northern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Active indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$

$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Timeframe 2 Years
Partner University of British Columbia

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100% of your donation will go directly to support this project. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member. 100% of your donation will go directly to support the Mother Tree project. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member.


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One Earth’s Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture.

Forests in British Columbia have been damaged by clear-cutting, drought and fire from increased aridity, and damaging insects. They are struggling to regenerate. Rapid, innovative action is needed to protect them from further loss and help them rebound. The Mother Tree Project is showing that such practices are within our reach. 

The Mother Tree Project was launched in 2015 as a large, long-term field experiment by world renowned forest ecologist Dr. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia. Its purpose is to identify future forestry management practices that will help our forests remain productive, diverse and resilient as the climate changes. This proposal seeks support for continuing that research.

This project builds on Simard’s extensive research showing that elder trees, or mother trees, facilitate recovery of the forests from disturbances such as fire and logging by transmitting resources and information through mycorrhizal fungal networks to germinating seedlings, helping them survive and grow. This research has transformed how global ecologists view forests - from simply a collection of competing trees to an interdependent web of organisms in a complex adaptive system.

With a focus on Douglas fir forests in British Columbia, the Project’s overarching objective is to identify harvesting and regeneration practices that best protect biodiversity, carbon storage, and forest regeneration as climate changes. Nine replicated forests (27 stands) are being examined across a 900-km climate gradient from the Canada-US border to north-central B.C.

A range of current forest ecosystem conditions are being examined across several regional climates, from dry to wet and from hot to cool, in order to predict how climate change will affect the forests over time. Field experiments are matched with laboratory and greenhouse studies carried out by graduate students to help us understand the mechanisms of resilience, with computer modeling to project carbon dynamics over the coming century. 

The Project has measured post-logging effects on carbon stocks and plant diversity, and it has made an early assessment of requirements for regeneration. The results of these studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

To build upon this work the Mother Tree Project will plant two forest areas covering an area of 30 acres, with 25,000 seedlings custom-grown in a forest nursery and planted into field sites. A two-year research effort will examine key aspects of regeneration, biodiversity and connection, including the effects of climate, harvesting and regeneration treatments related to five processes: (1) mycorrhizal fungal community and networks, (2) plant community diversity and assembly, (3) cavity nesting bird habitat, (4) role of arbuscular mycorrhizal networks in seedling regeneration, and (5) Aboriginal wisdom about connection and reciprocity in the forest. 

The Mother Tree Project will contribute much-needed scientific data to guide management of Douglas-fir forests in a warming world. Without such data to inform practices, all our forests are at risk of substantial decline in their capacity to sequester and store carbon, function as storehouses of biodiversity, and provide consumer products and clean water that we all use. 

Secure payment. USD donations tax-deductible.

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Your contribution will help ensure the long term success of this important project. Gifts can be made as a tribute to a friend or family member and are tax-deductible for U.S. residents. Please contact us!