About North America's Boreal Forest


Named after Boreas, the Greek god of the North wind, the boreal forest is also known by the Russian word Taiga. The boreal ecosystem is a unique and productive mosaic of interconnected habitats that include forests, lakes, river valleys, wetlands, peat lands and tundra at its northern reaches.

It covers 2.3 million square miles and is larger than the remaining Brazilian Amazon Rain Forest. It is home to the world's largest caribou herds, and large populations of wolves and bear still roam this vast landscape. The boreal is the nesting ground for more than 300 different species of birds. For many of these species it is their only nesting place.

Maps of Boreal ForestThe boreal forest circles the northern portion of the globe like an emerald halo and is found in Russia, Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia. Only 5% of the boreal in Scandinavia remains. Although the original boundaries of Russia's portion of the boreal were larger than Canada's, much has been fragmented and lost due to development. At 1.4 billion acres, 1.1 billion of which is still intact, Canada's boreal forest is one of the last large, intact forest ecosystems remaining on Earth. It stretches from coast to coast across Canada and all the way into Alaska.

In addition to birds, a wide variety of wildlife thrives in the boreal forest. Iconic species such as bear, caribou, moose and beaver are found throughout the boreal.

Unfortunately, all is not well in the boreal forest, and declines in this valuable wildlife ecosystem could have significant consequences. The boreal faces new and increasing threats from industrial development. To date, just over 12% is protected. More than 30% has already been designated for logging, energy and other development, much of it within the last few decades. Millions of acres of the boreal are clearcut each year. Decisions will be made in the next several years regarding the remaining lands and where development will take place.


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Margaret Trudeau, Environmental Activist and former wife of Pierre Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada

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Banner photo credit: CPAWS, by Juri Peepre