More than 2,400 plant species discovered in B.C. rainforest
Tuesday, September 18, 2018, 6:28 PM - After trudging through swamps and bushwhacking through sub-alpine thicket, a team of scientists has found around 2,400 species of plants — some it believes may be previously undiscovered — in the Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Whudujut Provincial Park, a rarely studied inland rainforest 115 kilometres east of Prince George.
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The three-year-long field study by scientists and students at the University of Northern B.C., alongside UBC botanists Trevor Goward and Curtis Björk, found species that weren't known to grow in this part of the province — or anywhere in Canada.
UNBC ecosystem science and management professor Darwyn Coxson remembers when the team first reported seeing a part of the forest near Tree Beard Waterfalls.
"It was a moment to knock [Björk's] socks off, not literally but almost," Coxson told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.
Anastrepta orcadensis, found in the Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Provincial Park. (UNBC)
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"The spray zone around the waterfall had such a richness of species I think in that first afternoon he described 400 species."
According to B.C. Parks, Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh protects a portion of the only inland temperate rainforest in the world.
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Coxson says the team has conducted more than 100 surveys around the Ancient Forest, documenting the different species of plants.
He adds that among the discoveries are new species of alpine dandelion and sedum.
Physostegia ledinghamii, found in the Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Provincial Park. (UNBC)
After the field study, Goward and Björk studied the new collections at the UBC herbarium to determine what they were. For the unidentifiable new finds, the plants will be sent for genetic analysis to confirm whether they are new species.
Coxson believes it's important to document B.C.'s botanical diversity in order to fully appreciate it.
"We're very lucky to have such a rich biodiversity heritage in British Columbia and I think it's important we pass that on to future generations," said Coxson.