Great Canadian Parks / British Columbia

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The Parks / British Columbia / Kootenay National Park



 


Above the timberline, the alpine zone is characterized by bare rock, ice, treeless high elevation meadows and a short growing season. The dense dark forest of sharp pointed Engelmann spruce and alpine fir, north of Vermilion River Valley, is the most dominant vegetation in the sub-alpine zone. The cool damp mossy forest takes up 42% of the park, in places growing down the lower slopes into more open wooded meadows. In the southern end, forests are dry interior Douglas fir and montane grasslands cover large areas along the valley bottomlands. Low-elevation meadows, wetlands and open forests of aspen, Lodgepole pine, white spruce and Douglas fir make up 8% of the park. At Vermilion Pass at the Alberta-British Columbia border, a vast blanket of blackened trees and new undergrowth surrounds the pass, the aftermath of a forest fire that devastated the area for four days in 1968. Lodgepole pines, shrubs and young plants - the new undergrowth known as ‘doghair’ forests - provides essential new food sources, attracting animals back to what had previously been a forest in decline. Indian paintbrush, white bog orchids, yellow heart-leafed arnica and fringed grass-of-parnassus provide a startling contrast to blackened snags. Since older growth provides poor habitats for wildlife, parks such as Kootenay now use controlled burns to ensure healthy woodlands.

 

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