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Using forest structural diversity to inventory habitat diversity of forest-dwelling wildlife in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia
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Forest planners in British Columbia are being asked to consider wildlife species diversity in forest development plans. However, forest ecosystem inventories currently used in the province only document forest composition (Vegetation Resources Inventory) or identify plant communities (Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping) and are therefore inappropriate or inadequate as tools for land management planning. To obtain information about a forested site's potential to support wildlife species diversity, a methodof using forest structure was developed to identify and evaluate habitat quality for multiple species of vertebrates. Six classes of forest structure important as wildlife habitats were delineated on aerial photographs. Five structural attributes of forest stands-vertical structure (canopy complexity), horizontal structure (forest patchiness), coarse woody debris density, litter and duff layer depth, and tree size-were measured in three study areas in the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia. In these areas, abundance of structural features between structural classes was compared to determine whether the classes were unique. Results showed that old forests were more structurally complex than younger forests, and forested and riparian sites were more structurally complex than non-forested and upland sites. To allow stand comparison, this data was then used to index structural diversity within a study area. Biologists and land managers can use this method to guide the conservation of forest-dwelling wildlife species.