Researchers have discovered six trees in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, that are over 400 years old and have called for the government to protect the area from logging. Mike Henry, a senior ecologist and lead researcher of the Algonquin Park Old-Growth Forest Project, said that they found “five more trees – for a total of six – over 400 years old, and many more trees over 250 years old at Cayuga Lake.” He added, “I thought we’d find at least one or two more in the 400-year range, but I didn’t expect to find six.”

The park, which is Ontario’s first provincial park and the oldest in the country, covers approximately 768,902 hectares of land, and logging has always been permitted. The Wilderness Committee has warned that up to 17,000 hectares of the park could be logged over the next decade. In response, researchers are urging the government to protect the area, arguing that the current rules “are no longer viable.” Ten years ago, the province’s environmental commissioner called for a ban on all commercial logging in the park.

Henry said that if the protected area of the park could be expanded from 35 to 40 per cent, that would be a start. “That would at least protect the really high-value areas,” he said. However, in a statement to the Star, a spokesperson for Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Graydon Smith said that the most recent 10-year management plan for the park, which expires in 2031, was “a rigorous process which includes stakeholder, public and Indigenous community input and involvement.”

“There are also many areas within the park where forest harvesting is not permitted,” the spokesperson added. “Approximately 1.7 per cent of the entire park can be sustainably harvested each year. Given recent harvesting rates, the actual harvest levels have been less than one per cent of the park.”

Environmental groups and researchers argue that the current logging rules are inadequate and that much more needs to be done to protect the park’s old-growth forests. These forests have “international significance,” and the loss of such valuable ecosystems and habitats would be detrimental to the environment and the species that inhabit them.

Henry and his team’s report on old-growth trees in Algonquin was due to be taken into account in the park’s updated management plan. The researchers hope that their findings will lead to more protective measures for the park’s old-growth forests.