The North American boreal forest stretches from Alaska across 6,000 kilometers to Newfoundland. It is the largest wilderness left in North America and is part of an ecosystem that encircles the northern hemisphere. Vast amounts of carbon are locked up in the boreal forest. Their biomass is so huge that in the northern spring, when their growth is at its peak, worldwide levels of carbon dioxide fall and the worldwide levels of oxygen rise. Boreal forests are just as important to the global ecosystem as tropical forests. It is estimated that boreal forests store almost twice as much carbon as tropical forests and three times as much as temperate forests. The carbon storage of Canada’s boreal forest is estimated to be equal to nearly 27 years of the world’s carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. Click here to read more on global warming and Canada’s boreal forest.
In addition, the boreal forest acts as North America’s bird nursery. Over 300 of North America’s 325 species regularly breed in the boreal forest region. Considering the overwhelming threats already faced by songbirds, preserving the boreal forest may be absolutely vital to their very survival. Many groups are working to preserve the boreal forest including the Boreal Songbird Initiative.
More and more, development and resource extraction are encroaching upon this ecosystem. About two hectares of Canada’s boreal forest are clearcut every minute. Further, projects such as Alberta’s Tar Sands contribute hugely to global warming. New research by Global Forest Watch Canada shows that the extent of greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands operations is much worse than reported due to the failure of oil companies and governments to account for emissions from forest destruction. Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace climate and energy coordinator, says “Governments and companies are working hard to downplay the impacts of tar sands operations, but it turns out that they don’t even know the full extent of the problem.” Denial is not a climate strategy. Read more here.
An easy way that you can help to protect the boreal forest is this: simply choose forest-friendly products when you go shopping. There is now a good range of green disposable paper products available just about everywhere. You can get facial tissues, bathroom tissue, and paper towels made from 100% recycled paper. Buying these products saves a tree and also supports the recycling industry. Sponge pockets and quicker-picker-uppers, despite what the commercials would have you believe, are not magic wands. They are just paper towels that support the destruction of forests. Look for recycled-fibre printer paper too.
Thursday, October 15th, is Blog Action Day on Climate Change. Connect to the movement at blogactionday.org. October 24th is International Day of Climate Action. Come out and participate! You can find an event near you at www.350.org.
Thanks to Birdgirl of The Marvelous in Nature for the great photos of the boreal forest of northern Ontario.