For most people, the word rainforest conjures images of a rolling, tree-covered area teeming with tropical birds, cascading waterfalls and shimmering streams, and thick, humid air. But did you know that the coastal areas of British Columbia are considered a rainforest? A temperate coastal rainforest, to be exact, and one of the wettest, non-tropical places in the entire world.
June 22 is World Rainforest Day. Founded in 2017, the day highlights the importance of healthy rainforests and all that comes with them: biodiversity and habitats for a wide range of creatures, medicine, culture, and the livelihoods of those who find work in relation to them. World Rainforest Day also serves as a way to talk about the damage that’s been done to rainforests and what we can do as a community to reverse it.
To truly understand why this day is important, we need to take a closer look at rainforests—particularly the rainforest we live in.
But before we do this, a bit of general information: rainforests are the earth’s oldest living ecosystems, some having been around for seventy million years. Though rainforests cover only around six percent of the earth’s surface, they hold over half of the world’s plant and animal species. They’re also responsible for providing around twenty percent of the world’s oxygen, and absorb around twenty percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Beyond this, hundreds of plants used in modern medicine grow in rainforests, and about eighty percent of the food we eat originated in rainforests, with food sources still being discovered today. In short, rainforests are extraordinarily important to humans—and the plants and animals that call them home.
Unlike tropical rainforests, which hold hundreds of different tree species, B.C.’s coastal rainforest only has a few species of trees, given that seeds need to be able to grow in the low levels of light found on the forest floor and survive through the short, dark days of our coastal winters. Mainly, the trees found in B.C.’s coastal rainforest are coniferous—walk into the woods and you’ll find hemlock, redcedar, Douglas fir, and Sitka spruce in abundance.
And in our coastal rainforests are a wealth of creatures, including grizzly and black bears, elk, deer, frogs, toads, salamanders, and wolves. As well, a number of birds call the forest home year-round, while others only visit for breeding, overwintering, or during migration. Some of these birds include bald eagles, common ravens, sandhill cranes, and the northern saw-whet owl—birds you’ve seen in your local community or at nearby parks and nature reserves. Another is the northern spotted owl, an endangered species that lives year-round in B.C.’s old-growth forests—only three of these owls are left in the wild.
The problem is, rainforests are disappearing, and fast. In B.C.’s interior, rainforests are being logged at a rapid rate, with over 2.7 million hectares of forest logged in the last fifty years. At this rate, the risk of deforestation is quickly increasing, and along with it, a decline in all the positive benefits rainforests provide—not to mention habitat loss for the creatures that call them home.
At the Wild Bird Trust of BC, we’re more than concerned about the loss of rainforests in our community. Recently, the Coast Salish Plant Nursery received funding from the federal government’s 2B Trees program to support the development of a propagation and planting program at Maplewood Flats. With this support, we’ve already distributed over five hundred trees to the local community, conducted propagation workshops for members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the general public, delivered native tree-related programming that centers Indigenous knowledge and worldviews, and propagated over two hundred native tree seedlings from cuttings and seed restoration at Maplewood Flats.
This is why we recognize World Rainforest Day. As a community, we need to understand the role rainforests—including the rainforest we live in—plays in the health of the planet, including our own backyards. Without rainforests, we lose out on diverse ecosystems, countless health benefits, opportunities for learning, and the wonder that comes with wandering through a silent forest on a foggy afternoon.
CBC: Increased logging endangers rainforests in B.C.’s Interior, study says. Retrieved from
National Geographic: Rainforest. Retrieved from
Hinterland Who’s Who: Canada’s Coastal Rainforest. Retrieved from
Hinterland Who’s Who: Coastal Rainforest. Retrieved from
Rainforest Partnership: World Rainforest Day. Retrieved from
Young People’s Trust For the Environment: Why Are Rainforests Important? Retrieved from