July 20, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Drones boost reforestation of burned forest in Quebec

Drones boost reforestation of burned forest in Quebec

The vast expanse of land on the Rupert River Plateau north of Chibougamau and Chapais became the perfect playground for the Ontario Company's Flash Forest. Its drones will be able to reforest nearly a hundred hectares of forest destroyed by fires in the catastrophic summer of 2023.

In northern Quebec, about 404,000 hectares of land intended for forest development, or 11.6% of the area, was affected by fires last year in the Assinica Wildlife Reserve, managed by the Cree Nation of Aujé-Bougomau. Some areas may not be able to regenerate naturally due to the severity of fires.

in places [au Québec]The fires were so intense that the fires burned all the organic matter on the ground, meaning we'd end up with a scar on the landscape for many decades.William Metivier, president of Fourier, a company specializing in forest management, explained.

Concerned about leaving this forested area to its own devices – and aware of the many obstacles that could slow the return of burned forests to production – this forest engineer called Flash Forest to find a solution to reforest this area. As quickly and cheaply as possible.

Already active in the west of the country, the young company has yet to launch a project in Quebec.

However, since mid-June, its drones have begun to fly over the canopy that covers the Assinica mountain terrain, leaving in their wake small pellets of seeds ready to take root on the ground. 29 hectares of boreal forest seeded in the past few days have woodland caribou.

2023 An aerial view of a site in Assinica Wildlife Reserve where trees have been burnt by fires.

Photo: Forair

million capsules, from which we hope to grow to 125000trees”,”text”:”In total, the drones will disperse around 2.5 million capsules, from which we hope to grow 125,000 trees”}}”>In total, the drones will disperse approximately 2.5 million capsules, from which 125,000 trees are expected to grow.Summary of William Metivier acting as intermediary for Flash Forest in Quebec. Hectares of forest”,”text”:”It will allow regrowth of 85 to 100 hectares of forest”}}”>This will enable reforestation of 85 to 100 hectaresHe adds.

The seeding capsules are made of 70% black spruce and 30% jack pine.

Unlike most forest species in Quebec, these trees are not intended for harvest. Flash Forest will monitor the project for the next three years, while Forair wants to study the project's evolution over the long term. Let's see how these trees grow. Were they able to make it to Earth? Did they push it all wrong? This will be our study area.

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Drought tolerant

Reached on the West Coast, Flash Forest's director of operations, Cameron Jones, warned: It's not enough to drop the seeds and they'll go into the soil. You still need a capsule that allows the seed to enter the ground.

The first tests of Flash Forest, then limited to distributing seeds from a drone, failed. Most of the seeds fell in dry areas where they could not penetrate the soil and eventually went to waste.

Hence the company has developed a multi-thickness capsule that helps prevent dryness. Like an onion, each of these layers that coat the seed provides moisture and nutrients that help it grow.

The composition of pellets depends on the type of tree. Some may contain mycorrhizal fungi that help plants absorb minerals and water from the soil.

% of their volume and retain this moisture after planting, which allows the seed to settle well even in the absence of heavy rain”,”text”:”When the capsules 'are mixed with water, they swell up to about 400%. Their size and retention of this moisture after planting allows the seed to establish well even if there is not much rain”}}”>When the capsules soak up water, they swell up to about 400% of their volume and retain this moisture after planting, even though the seed is not large, the seed sets well.Cameron Jones says.

with forest fires and drought episodes, leading to the loss of more than 16 million hectares [au Canada l’an dernier]Most of the planted trees are not surviving due to lack of water.

A quote from Cameron Jones, Director of Operations at Flash Forest

The company also uses artificial intelligence to analyze the area of ​​deforestation and target areas with the best chance of success.

It is also used to determine which species are best planted in these sites so that they can adapt to climate change.Cameron Jones notes. This is unprecedented because most tree-planting efforts have historically involved taking species already in the wild and planting them at uniform densities across the entire area.

In Quebec, as in other provinces, deforestation is regulated by law. This requires managing and respecting the forest ecosystem Natural dynamics of forestsincluding their composition.

The reforestation zone of the Assinica Wildlife Reserve – chosen with the help of Oujé-Bougoumou and with the agreement of Robert S.-Blacksmith, the tallyman responsible for the target territory – represents its share of challenges.

Far from roads and towns, the site is crossed by mountains. The drones therefore need to adjust their trajectory to follow the slope and adjust to the height difference so that the capsules are dropped at the same speed and at the same height on the trees.

As the altitude changes, so does the plant type and species density.Summary of Cameron Jones. Unlike our project in Saskatchewan, where the land is flat and very uniform, Quebec is one of the most difficult places to plant trees.

Work fast

Drone seeding must cut all the logistics of deforestation – which are time-consuming and expensive. Roads do not need to be built to allow scarifiers and heavy machinery used to prepare the land, argues Cameron Jones.

Although the province lags behind in deforestation, drone seeding makes it possible to plant more trees in less time than anything else, without having to wait two or three years for seedlings to grow in a nursery.

Flash Forest, which has facilities capable of producing one million capsules per day, is estimated to be able to plant 50,000 trees daily. sowing per day”,”text”:”In comparison, in a planter a [productivité] Average 1500 to 2000 plants per day”}}”>In comparison, in a planter a [productivité] Average 1500 to 2000 plants per dayCameron Jones underlined.

Not only is the current rate inadequate, but there are not enough workers to plant all the trees that need to be planted to compensate for the damage caused by forest fires.

This also applies to nurseries They have failed to increase their capacity to meet the afforestation needs of the countryJohn Innes is a professor and former collaborator in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC IPCC.

The expert who advises Flash Forest has been interested in aerial seeding for over twenty years. From California to Australia, these technologies are being refined and advanced rapidly, driven by advances in the military sector — and especially by competition from drone companies in Canada and the United States, Mr. Innes said.

In addition to making it possible to reach hard-to-reach places, drones offer the benefit of keeping planters out of harm's way. Trees can fall at any time after a fire. Ashes on the ground, once stirred, become suspended in the air and penetrate into their lungs.Provides an example of an expert in sustainable forest management.

However, he believes that drone seeding will not spell the end of the planting profession.

The mortality rate of young plants decreases exponentially with age. This is the planter's purpose: they plant trees [déjà formés] Thus there is a high survival rate.

A quote from John Innes, Professor in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC

Some forests, such as the west coast, accumulate organic matter Prevents seeds from going down into the groundNot suitable for this type of technology, he said.

Federal funds

Although the pilot project will take place in Quebec, the provincial government will not fund its operations. The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Maïté Blanchette-Vézina, however, believes drone seeding is possible. Be part of solutions to improve the way we do things [en matière de] Reforestation.

Same story with Chief Forester Louis Pelletier, who said he was open to consideration All tools […] This will ensure regeneration of our forests at low cost.

Tests conducted in the Assinica Wildlife Reserve are largely funded by private partners, including Transat. Indigenous Services Canada, for its part, provided Ouje-Bougoumou with $125,000 to conduct a feasibility study.

Flash Forest will also benefit from funding from Ottawa as part of a program to reforest 2 billion trees over 10 years. In 2022, the company received more than $1 million to plant one million trees by the end of 2024. Based on last fall's tracking of drone-planted seedlings, Cameron Jones said the company. is on track to reach its target.

Header visual : Flash Forest

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