Research update Fleur Damen (UBC forestry department, Vancouver)

A short research update by Fleur Damen, who with support of ACSN, started her research at UBC this fall:

"In September 2021, I started my research as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Department of Forestry. My research focuses on climate adaptation of temperate rainforests, in which I am using Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) as a model species. Since my arrival in British Columbia (BC), the province has had to deal with a variety of climate extremes, including extremely high temperatures (June 2021), forest fires, floods, storms, and finally unusually low temperatures with large amounts of snow (December 2021).

If we want to maintain healthy forest ecosystems, we need to understand how trees can cope with these climatic extremes. Using Douglas-fir, I will evaluate how characteristics such as tree size, genetics, and competition among trees influence a tree’s ability to grow under extreme conditions. Every year, as a tree grows, a new ring of wood is added to its stem. By taking samples of the wood and measuring the width of all these tree-rings from the previous years, we can see how well the tree grew under stressful conditions compared to normal years. By linking these data to the tree characteristics, we can predict which characteristics allow a tree to survive better in the changing climate.

In the past months, I have made several field trips to the various forest ecosystems of BC, to learn more about their ecology, management, and the ecosystem services they provide. I have also visited two of my Douglas-fir trial sites to collect wood samples for a preliminary analysis. I have obtained samples from 48 trees in total and calculated tree-ring widths for the past 20 years. I am now analyzing the climate data forthe trial sites to determine which years saw the most extreme drought and frost events, and I will link this data to the information found in the tree rings. I feel very lucky to be studying forestry at UBC, as it allows me to connect to top experts in this field. I am developing the project in consultation with my supervisors and thanks to their input I already have a clear direction and goal.

I have also been given plenty of opportunity to attend seminars, reach out to other students and faculty, do fieldwork, or get experience teaching. In 2022, I plan on doing remote sensing, take wood samples from all my trial sites, and attend a conference to present my preliminary results. By the end of the year, I hope to have my first manuscript ready!"