Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Canada's vast boreal forest a biodiversitiy hotspot

Conservationists want to boost its visibility to ensure its protection.

Canada's vast boreal forest a biodiversitiy hotspot

A lake in the Canadian boreal forest. (Boreal Songbirds Initiative photo)
A lake in the Canadian boreal forest. (Boreal Songbirds Initiative photo)

In case you missed it and forgot to send a card -- as did I -- Wednesday was the International Day for Biodiversity.

What’s biodiversity?

Ask most people, and they think it’s related to the number of species in a particular area. The more species, the more biodiversity.

So, naturally, they think of places like the Amazon as being biodiversity strongholds.

But a report from the Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited begs to differ. They think other characteristics — concentrations of species, for instance, or the presence of large-scale migrations — also should factor into the ranking of biodiversity.

And by that measure, they say, Canada’s vast boreal forest, an vast swath of the nation that lies between the northern tundra and the more southerly temperate rainforests, rates high.

Among the more impressive features the report details:

  • It is home to some of the world’s largest and longest mammal migrations among woodland and barren ground caribou; some herds travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers annually.
  • It acts as North America’s bird nursery, producing an estimated 3-5 billion migratory birds of more than 300 species and dozens of millions of waterfowl.
  • It is home to some of the last remaining healthy habitat and robust populations for a number of iconic North American mammals, including grizzly bear, timber wolf, and wolverine.
  • It is home to some of the world’s most unique predator-prey relationships, of which entire ecosystems and food chains can depend on this delicate balance, such as the relationship between caribou and wolves in many parts of the boreal.

The groups identified ten “cool spots” in the Canadian boreal that highlight its conservation value.

“As climate change continues to impact the planet, Canada’s boreal forest becomes even more critical to protect,” the report notes.

The boreal is a massive terrestrial carbon storehouse — sequestering an amount equivalent to 300 years worth of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Maintaining the boreal — and keeping that carbon sequestered — “is crucial,” the report said.

Plus, “Canada’s boreal will also become increasingly important as a place of refuge for species forced northward by inhospitable climates farther south.”

And more.

Take a look. The photos alone are worth the trip.

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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