Two forest research locations

Ontario has two forest research centres:

  1. Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research in Thunder Bay
  2. Ontario Forest Research Institute in Sault Ste. Marie

Their applied research, monitoring activities and advice helps us develop forest management policies, practices and guides to protect Ontario’s forests.

Visit our catalogue of natural resource scientific and technical publications, which lists what we’ve published since 2004.

Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research

In Thunder Bay, our research and technical staff study the:

  • balance of harvesting and growth of trees in boreal forests
  • effect of silviculture (growing and cultivating of trees) on boreal forests
  • effect of forestry on water systems in boreal forests
  • relationship among people, forests and forest management
  • effect of forestry and other activities on large mammals in northern Ontario forests

Boreal forest stand ecology

Our researchers in Thunder Bay study:

  • what effects harvesting for biomass have on growth and productivity of boreal forest plants and soil, as well as animal life
  • how best to manage stands of planted trees in the boreal forest to produce both economic and ecological benefits
  • what the causes and effects of climate change are in the boreal forest, especially areas dominated by black spruce and jack pine

Email Dave Morris or call 807-343-4006.

Boreal silviculture

Silviculture is the growing and cultivating of trees. Our researchers in Thunder Bay study:

  • various aspects of boreal silviculture, including:
    • effects of commercial thinning in black spruce stands
    • how best to monitor the effectiveness of forestry practices
    • how to deactivate forestry roads no longer in use
  • ways to measure young forests using remote sensing (imagery and lidar) to monitor forest development and provide information for forest management planning
  • the use of harvested forests by woodland caribou, for example, for shelter and food

Email Doug Reid or call 807-343-4008.

Effects of forest management on boreal aquatic systems

Our researchers in Thunder Bay learn:

  • how well forest management guidelines protect sensitive forest stream systems
  • how forest management affects water temperature and brook trout living in streams
  • how mercury is distributed in and moves through forest streams and fish

Email Rob Mackereth or call 807-343-4009.

Human dimensions of conservation and ecosystem management

Our researchers in Thunder Bay study:

  • effects of forestry on hunting, fishing and similar tourism activities
  • role of climate change in the spread of invasive species in Ontario’s lakes, streams and rivers
  • effects of invasive species on the economic value of recreational experiences
  • effects of social and environmental conditions on the behaviour of outdoor recreationists and the patterns and effects of human activity in forests
  • quality of opportunities to participate in resource management decisions such as local citizens committees
  • economic benefits that people gain from outdoor recreation activities such as hunting and fishing

Email Len Hunt or call 807-343-4007.

Human dimensions of sustainable resource development

Our researchers in Thunder Bay:

  • answer research questions about the social, cultural and economic aspects of land use planning and development (including in the Ring of Fire area)
  • incorporate considerations for social justice and sustainability into resource management and development decision making
  • provide science support to consider the effects of development and resource management decisions more holistically (for example, through cumulative effects assessments, i.e. determining the combined effects of human and natural disturbances)
  • learn about the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples and their evolving roles in resource development in Ontario:
    • engage multiple perspectives, values and ways of knowing into our research
    • support opportunities for Indigenous communities to be involved in research and monitoring

Email Colleen George or call 807-343-4016.

Northern mammal ecology

Our researchers in Thunder Bay study:

  • effects of human and natural disturbance on woodland caribou persistence in Ontario
  • how forest management guidelines and other factors such as predators, parasites, and climate change affect moose populations
  • cumulative effects modelling

Email Art Rodgers or call 807-343-4011.

Ontario Forest Research Institute

In Sault Ste. Marie, our research and technical staff focus on applied landscape and silviculture research.

They examine how forests respond to natural disturbances and management. This information teaches us how to regrow forests and ensure our management practices emulate natural disturbances.

Our researchers study:

  • forest carbon cycling and storage and how to help forests adapt to climate change
  • how to maintain and conserve the genetic diversity of Ontario’s trees/forests
  • how Ontario’s forests grow and change
  • how native and invasive forest diseases and insects affect Ontario’s trees and forest ecosystems and how best to control them
  • how forest management intensity affects forests and how to ensure that our management practices sustain forest plant diversity
  • how best to harvest, renew, and tend Ontario’s boreal mixedwood forests
  • how to sustainably manage Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forests to provide economic benefits, including biomass
  • how to restore native forests and increase the ability of planted forests to withstand/recover from stress
  • ecological processes and patterns over large areas and long periods
  • cumulative effects of disturbance and climate change
  • how human activities and natural disturbances affect wetlands and peatlands

Forest carbon

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • forest carbon models to support policy development and forest management planning
  • carbon storage in various pools, including wood products
  • potential forest management contributions to mitigating climate change, including substituting forest products for materials that result in higher greenhouse gas emissions
  • effects of site, soil, stand structure and climate on boreal forest dynamics

Email Michael Ter-Mikaelian or call 705-946-7432, or Jiaxin Chen or call 705-946-7486.

Forest genetic diversity

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • how well different populations of tree species adapt to and grow under different climatic conditions
  • where to find best seed sources to use to regrow forests in a changing climate
  • how to protect white pine from the invasive alien disease known as blister rust

Email Pengxin Lu or call 705-946-7415.

Forest growth and yield

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie develop:

  • growth and productivity models for natural and planted forests that incorporate the effects of climate changes
  • growth and yield models to support economically sustainable forest management plans

Email Mahadev Sharma or call 705-946-7407.

Forest health and invasive diseases

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • causes of forest disease and the biology of pests to develop management practices
  • new management options for diseases
  • improved survey techniques for forest pests

They also provide diagnostic services for the provincial forest health monitoring program.

Email Sharon Reed or call 705-946-7485.

Forest management and ecology

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • effects of forest management intensity on forest productivity, wood fibre quality, diversity, invasibility (likelihood of invasive plant species establishing) and soil nutrients
  • long-term effects and effectiveness of vegetation management alternatives on boreal forest ecosystems
  • applications of ecological theory to sustainable forest management and successful forest regeneration practices

Email Wayne Bell or call 705-946-7401.

Forest management in boreal mixedwoods

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • how best to apply pre-harvest treatments and partial cutting to ensure successful regrowth and the right mix of structural and species diversity
  • how climate warming is affecting the seasonal development of Ontario tree species and possibly increasing the risk of frost damage
  • how natural disturbances such as catastrophic wind and insect defoliation affect forest regeneration, stand structure, and species diversity
  • how to regenerate white cedar, a species important to Indigenous communities

Email Rongzhou Man or call 705-946-7484.

Forest management in Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forests

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • how best to manage for resilient and complex forests in a changing climate
  • how to manage forests affected by beech bark disease to ensure the next generation of trees is diverse and productive
  • how partial harvesting practices (irregular shelterwood, gap-based silviculture) affect forests

Email Eric Searle or call 249-525-5416.

Forest restoration and resilience

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • how best to increase forest resilience by planting mixtures of tree species rather than single species
  • how best to restore southern Ontario conifer plantations to native forests
  • the need for assisted migration (planting tree species populations outside their current geographic range) to accommodate climate changes to inform policy

Email Bill Parker or call 705-946-7424.

Terrestrial systems ecology, forest landscapes and disturbance

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • cumulative effects of global change, fire and insect disturbances and forest harvesting on the composition, structure, function and biodiversity of forest ecosystems
  • shifts in forest composition with global change and forest disturbance
  • effects of belowground fungi on productivity and diversity of forests
  • global change effects on the spring timing of forest vegetation, insects, and wildlife

As well, they:

  • maintain a database of historical forest disturbance (fire and harvest) in Ontario’s boreal forest that reflects changes in time and space
  • are refining a model called BFOLDS that simulates boreal forest landscape dynamics — how natural disturbances such as fire occur across large areas and over long time periods

Email Stephen J. Mayor or call 705-946-7421.

Wetlands and peatlands

Our researchers in Sault Ste. Marie study:

  • how carbon cycles through wetlands and how to reduce the effects of resource development on wetland carbon
  • how wetlands are vulnerable to climate change
  • cumulative effects of climate change and forest harvesting on watersheds
  • tools to understand, predict, and lessen the effects of climate and development on wetlands

Email Jim McLaughlin or call 705-946-7418.

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