Why does Canada’s Boreal Forest have global significance?
Did you know that the Canadian Boreal Forest biome is one of the last large intact landscapes remaining on Earth?
It’s true! It’s the Earth's largest terrestrial carbon sink and one of the most intact of the global forested ecosystems.
Thought to hold a minimum of 208 billion tons of carbon in its trees and other resources, it is of significant importance to each and every one of us. Find out why below.
What is a Boreal Forest?
First, let’s discuss what a Boreal forest is exactly. Also known as taiga, it supports locally significant biodiversity as well as globally important ecosystem services. They cover 11% of land areas, covering vast tracts of land across Alaska, Canada, northern Europe, and Russia.
These regions are characterized by harsh winters, carbon storage, clean water, and they harbor globally significant wildlife populations.
Where are boreal forests in Canada?
Millions of kilometers of the Boreal Forest biome are found in Canada! Yes, millions!
It’s no surprise then that the boreal zone stretches from Yukon and Northern British Columbia to Newfoundland & Labrador.
So, why is it so important?
The North American Boreal Forest biome’s intactness has allowed it to retain many globally significant conservation features. These include
1. Support about 24% of the world’s individual trees.
The highest densities of trees on earth occur in the global boreal forest biomes. It is estimated to hold as many as 500 billion individual trees! This represents 16% of the world’s total number of individual trees.
2. Healthy populations of large predators.
It is the winter home of the migratory caribou and reindeer and the permanent home of many other species. The wolf and lynx are the major predators of the boreal forest. Many of which have now been listed as Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern.
3. Billions of nesting birds and Insects.
This includes species of chironomid flies, lepidopterans, dragonflies, beetles, and butterflies that are mostly found in the North American Boreal Forest habitat and are wetland-dependent. It is home to billions of songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds and is the final refuge for critically endangered species.
4. Some of the world’s largest lakes and undammed rivers.
The Forest biome encompasses millions of lakes and ponds and holds more available fresh water than any country on earth. Within the biome are four of the world’s ten largest lakes in the world that support healthy, age-structured fish populations that have become scarce under heavy fishing pressure.
5. Massive stores of carbon and ecological functionality.
The boreal forest is the single biggest source of living biomass on the planet's surface. It contains more than 30% of the total terrestrial pool, and it is therefore critically important in global carbon dynamics.
What threatens the Boreal Forest?
The majority of Canadian boreal forest regions have preserved their ecological variety. However, the increased demand for wood products has resulted in the spread of commercial logging activities into northern boreal regions.
Despite recognizing the importance of preserving old forests, forest management still predominantly employs clear-cut harvesting with short rotations resulting in the loss of biological and structural diversity.
Global climate change also threatens these forests. According to some studies, the boreal forest will contribute to CO2 in the atmosphere under the projected climate changes.
At the current rate, all boreal forests are being threatened. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year to deforestation and degradation, mainly in the tropics. That’s equivalent to 27 soccer fields a minute!
So Why Should You Care?
Well, other than the very important reasons we’ve listed above. Another really important reason is that at OneRoot, we harvest raw natural honey straight from the beehives of Boreal Forest in Northern Ontario.
Our bees are healthy since no chemicals are used. One of our primary aims is to maintain a healthy bee population. Therefore we understand the necessity to keep the woods healthy by keeping the forests healthy.