Happy Yule and Winter Solstice! I thought perhaps it would be fitting to clarify a little bit regarding my previous post and the Canadian Boreal Forests as Yule and Solstice are good times for insight and thoughtful re-evaluation.
The Canadian Boreal Forests consist of close to half of Canada's total. So much forest, wilderness and wide space... Canada is known for it's forests. We are a huge country that is sparsely populated in comparison to countries like the United States or those in the UK.
The actual 'boreal' forest encircles the northern globe to encompass Canada and Eurasia and makes up almost 1/3 of the world's forests. Canada's third of this massive forestial ecosystem, contains wetlands that filter millions of tons of water each day. Wetlands like the black spruce peatland pictured here. When I look at this picture I see life, lush and green. Perhaps because I grew up on the Atlantic coast, where trees are quite smaller than other parts of the country, and hemlocks and wetlands are prominent and essential for wildlife growth and water.
Unlike more southern forests, the boreal forest is characterized by long cold winters and short summers, resulting in more coniferous tree species. Wetlands (i.e. peatlands), bogs, marshes and fens consist of 30% of the Canadian boreal forest. These invaluable wetlands filter millions of liters of water daily and provide habitat for more than 13 million ducks... which is about 40% of the American duck population. (Hinterland Who's Who). Canada's Boreal Forest is the largest intact contiguous forest on Earth.
According to Environment Canada, the Federal Government Site, harvesting of the boreal forests has increased steadily over the past ten years. As paper production takes up the majority of the harvest, it has been supposed that increased consumer demand has resulted in increased harvests. These harvests are creeping up to more northern, ecologically fragile areas each year. Approximately 1 million acres of forest are mined annually (David Suzuki).
Unfortunately, most science behind renewable forestry comes from research done in southern regions or forests and not in mid-northern boreal ecosystems. There is a difference, as northern forests are more fragile and prone to soil erosion, regrowth is extremely slow and wildlife easily affected by disturbance. A dominance of those all important wetlands can result in even more soil modification. High moisture content and lower structure can result in displacement, compacting and decreased nutrients to name a few (EC).
According to the World Resource Institute, the current harvesting practices of Canadian Boreal Forests is unsustainable as implementation of sustainable policies are inconsistent.
According to Environment Canada, about 90% of harvesting in the boreal forests are done through clearcutting. Including full-tree and tree-length.
Further, the paper and pulp mills have historically caused toxic run-off with mercury, dioxins and and furans, polluting local water ways that supply all of Canadian water systems. According to the IPCC, forest clearance may account for 1/4th of all carbon dioxide emissions... annually (David Suzuki conference).
Although the ginormous forests of mountainous interior of BC were different and beautiful in their own right, I have always loved the small, short coniferous forests of Atlantic and Northern Canada. There is something striking about recognizing the importance of something seemingly barren... understanding that life flourishes and dynamically impacts each part of our world.
Beneath the surface of our sleeping time, like Yule, the Boreal Canadian Forest reminds us that life is in every thing. To be cherished and protected.
I am indeed, a tree-hugger. :)
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