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Old Growth Forest

The term Old Growth Forests describes areas where large trees in the mature stage stages of their life cycle generally dominate the forest. The old-growth stage may be reached at different ages depending on the tree species and site condition. At 50 to 100 years old, aspen forests can be dominated by large trees nearing the end of their life cycle. In undisturbed coniferous forests, spruce trees can reach 150 to 200+ years of age.

Old growth forests have a more complex structure than younger stands. This is due largely to the presence of fallen trees, snags, gaps in the canopy, shrubs and understory vegetation. This structural diversity provides a greater variety of micro-habitats. Micro-habitats are like little worlds. Consequently, there is a particularly rich variety of mosses, lichens, insects, and smaller micro organisms. Many forest species require old-growth stands for part of their life cycle. Examples in Alberta include woodland caribou, fisher, flying squirrel, bats, forest owls and hawks, and a variety of songbirds.