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Status of Vascular Plants
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Status of Non-native Vascular Plants

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Photo: Brittany Woiderski

Section 6.1

Status of Native Vascular Plants Associated with Old Deciduous & Mixedwood Forests

93.3% intact on average

The status of 33 native vascular plants associated with old deciduous and mixedwood habitat in the Al-Pac FMA area is, on average, 93.3% as measured by the Biodiversity Intactness Index.

This means most of the habitat for native vascular plants is in good condition, but habitat suitability is lower in some areas due to human development activities.



Understory plant communities represent an important part of biodiversity in northern boreal forests. These communities influence the trees that grow in the overstory, the fertility of the soil via nutrient cycling, and the availability of food and habitat for a variety of wildlife[1].
Given that stand-replacing fire is the principal natural disturbance of boreal forests, many vascular plants are adapted to frequent disturbance events; few species are restricted to one particular forest type but instead can be found in a broad range of habitats[2]. Despite these broad tolerances, there are differences in vascular plant communities between forest types. Deciduous and mixedwood forests, characterized by higher light levels, warmer soils, and higher nitrogen availability, support a greater diversity of vascular plants than do coniferous forests[3], and some vascular plant species are more strongly associated with older mixedwood forests than with other stand types of different ages.
While variability is inherent in the structure and composition of boreal forest ecosystems, understanding elements commonly associated with older deciduous and mixedwood forests including vascular plant, informs the management of these forest types.

Intactness and sector effects are summarized for native vascular plant species associated with old deciduous and mixedwood forests in the Al-Pac FMA area and AEI.

Spreading Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza depauperata)
Photo: ABMI

Pale Coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida)
Photo: ABMI

Principle 8: Monitoring and Assessment

Criterion 8.2 – Monitoring and evaluating environmental and social impacts of activities carried out in the management unit

FSC Indicator 8.2.3 (3) is supported by providing up-to-date ‘best available information’ on the status of naturally occurring native species from six taxa that can inform on the effectiveness of conservation and restoration actions taken within the FMA over time (linked to FSC Criterion 6.6).


Intactness of 33 native vascular plants associated with old deciduous and mixedwood forests was found to be, on average:

FMA Area: 93.3%
AEI: 85.4%


  • Habitat suitability for all old forest vascular plant species is predicted to have declined between 2010 and 2016, with intactness decreasing from 94.1% to 93.3% over this time frame. 
  • The drop in intactness was at least 2 percentage points for four species, including: Pale Coralroot (-2.2%), Spotted Coralroot (-2.7%), White Grained Mountain Rice Grass (-3.2%), and Spreading Sweet Cicely (-4.0%). 
  • Intactness of old forest vascular plants was higher in the Al-Pac FMA area compared to the AEI; this can mainly be attributed to the presence of agriculture footprint and energy footprint associated with the surface mineable area in the AEI, which removes their preferred old-forest habitat. 


Western Canada Violet (Viola canadensis)
Photo: Diane Haughland

Spotted Touch Me Not (Impatiens capensis)
Photo: Wendell Smith

Red and White Baneberry (Actaea rubra)
Photo: Diane Haughland

Wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia)
Photo: Diane Haughland

These results have benefited from collaboration between the ABMI and various partners and contributors. More details are available in Collaborators and Contributors.

Figure: Native Vascular Plant Intactness. Intactness for native vascular plants associated with old deciduous/mixedwood forest in the Al-Pac FMA area estimated for 2010 and 2016. Change in intactness over time for each species indicates predicted change in habitat suitability as a result of human footprint rather than actual measured change in species abundance. Bars indicate deviation from 100% intact; e.g, 75% intact indicates greater deviation from reference conditions than 99% intact, while the bars' direction indicates whether the species decreased or increased in abundance relative to reference conditions. Both positive and negative deviations from reference result in lower intactness.

Sector Effects

Local-footprint Sector Effects

To understand which industrial sectors are most impacting native vascular plants associated with old deciduous-mixedwood forests in the Al-Pac FMA area, the local-footprint figures show how species’ relative abundance is predicted to change within each footprint compared to the habitat it replaced (Figure: Local-footprint Sector Effects).

  • With few exceptions, all categories of human footprint greatly decrease habitat suitability for vascular plant species associated with old deciduous/mixedwood forests in the Al-Pac FMA area because these activities impact their preferred habitat.
  • Within forestry footprint, the populations of all but four old forest vascular plant species are predicted to be less abundant than expected compared with in the habitat it replaces. Ten species are at least 50% less abundant in forestry footprint. 

Sector Effects on Regional Vascular Plant Populations

The regional population figure shows the predicted change in the total relative abundance of native vascular plant species across the Al-Pac FMA area due to each sector’s footprint (Figure: Regional Sector Effects).

  • Regional effects are much less than under-footprint effects because a great deal of old forest habitat has not been disturbed by human footprint in the Al-Pac FMA area.
  • For transportation and urban/industrial footprint, regional population effects of industrial sectors on vascular plants associated with old deciduous forest were small—between -2.0% and +3.3%. 
  • Forestry footprint resulted in the largest predicted loss of suitable habitat for most old forest vascular plants—on average -5.3%—because harvesting is the largest footprint type in the FMA area and focuses on old upland forest. Forestry footprint occurs primarily in three forest types: 47% of forestry footprint is in deciduous forest, 26% in White Spruce forest, and 21% in mixedwood forests.

To view species-specific sector effects, use the drop-down menu to select a species of interest.

Figure: Local-footprint Sector Effects. Predicted percentage change in species relative abundance inside areas that have been disturbed by each sector within the Al-Pac FMA area compared to the habitat it replaces. Sector effects values <0% indicate a negative response to a particular sector and >0% indicate a positive response.
Figure: Regional Sector Effects. Percentage change in species relative abundance due to the footprints of each industrial sector in the Al-Pac FMA area. Total effects values <0% indicate a predicted decrease in the regional population due to a particular sector and >0% indicate a predicted increase.



Hart, S.A. and H.Y.H. Chen. 2008. Fire, Logging, and Overstory Affect Understory Abundance, Diversity and Composition in Boreal Forest. Ecological Monographs 78(1):123-140.


Hart, S.A. and H.Y.H. Chen. 2006. Understory vegetation dynamics of North American boreal forests. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 25(4):381-397.


Macdonald, S.E. and T.E. Fenniak. 2007. Understory plant communities of boreal mixedwood forests in western Canada: Natural patterns and response to variable-retention harvesting. Forest Ecological and Management 242(1):34-48.

Macoun's Buttercup (Ranunculus macounii)
Photo: Bob Danley

Effective Human Footprint

Effective Forestry Footprint


This report is in partnership with