at a time to see Virginia
No surprise, then, that the staff at Nahanni go about
their work in great isolation. And there is no work
more isolated than that of a warden when he heads out
each spring to monitor flowering trees in the wilderness.
This is no day trek. The warden will spend three weeks
in the field, stationed in a remote cabin. Until recently,
the warden did this completely alone. Now, if he chooses,
he can bring someone else along for company –
a friend, a partner, or another staff member.
The cabin has solar-powered electricity, but no running
water, so the warden must cut a hole in the ice to obtain
what he needs. As well, he must chop firewood to help
keep warm and to cook. Typically, a warden will bring
fresh meat and vegetables to the cabin to provide a
varied diet. Unfortunately, however, fresh food lasts
for only so long. As warden Barry Troke described when
asked about life in the cabin: "By week
three, you’re eating
a lot of pasta."
Once a warden is settled in the field, he must move
quickly to complete his job, which is mainly to monitor
40 to 50 trees (mainly aspen). Each day he sets out
on a three-hour hike to check on these trees. He records
data such as when the catkins (clusters of woolly, caterpillar-like
flowers) open on the trees, and when their leaves emerge.
The warden also measures the diameter of the trees at
breast height to record their growth rate from year
Every five years, the wardens also facilitate decomposition
studies. This means leaving a litter bag in the open
for three years to collect leaves so that the rate of
their decay can be determined. Such data, and all other
information collected by the wardens on their three-week
stints, are sent to a researcher at the University of
Calgary, who studies them closely for the impact on
the trees of both natural and human factors.
With climate change becoming more evident in
||The forests of Nahanni
National Park are part of an annual phenology study wardens
are engaged in to monitor the effects of climate change.
|Image © Parks
Photograph by J. Poirel.