Global Warming and Canada's Boreal Forest

The Boreal Acts as a Shield Against Global Warming Industry Accelerates Global Warming Boreal Birds Are Already Affected by Climate Change

Why is the Boreal Forest So Important for Mitigating Global Warming?

The boreal forest, which rings the northern part of the globe, is the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir in the world, shielding us from global warming. Globally, boreal regions contain approximately 22% of the total carbon stored in the planet’s land surfaces.1 Canada's boreal forest stores 208 million tons of carbon, making it a globally-important carbon store.2  Learn more about the boreal forest's role in global warming >

Logging in the Boreal ForestHuman activity within the boreal threatens this shield and is accelerating global warming.  Deforestation is one of the leading causes of global warming because of the associated carbon release. Forest losses globally are responsible for approximately 20-25% of total global human-caused carbon emissions.3 In 2000, logging in Canada released four times as much carbon as all of Canada’s passenger cars.4

Tar sands oil production is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions growth in Canada.5 The GHG emissions from tar sands production are projected to increase even more dramatically over the next decade.6 Learn more about industrial development in the boreal and how this accelerates global warming >

87% of Buffleheads breed in the Boreal ForestGlobal warming threatens the bird populations that rely on Canada’s boreal forest. Because global warming is occurring at a greater rate in the northern regions than anywhere else in the world, boreal birds are vulnerable to the risks of a warming world.7

  • Long-distance migrant birds may arrive too late to take advantage of the increasingly earlier peak of insect abundance and, as a result, may not have enough food to feed their young.8
  • Drying of the western boreal may decrease food supplies and nesting habitat for the many wetland-dependent boreal birds.9
  • The changing distributions of trees and other plants as a result of warming will alter the habitat suitability of vast regions of the boreal to birds, whose populations may decrease.10

Learn more about the risks that global warming poses to boreal birds >

Proper planning by Canadian governments can ensure protection of this ecosystem and the species that depend on it – while maintaining its carbon storage benefits. The Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, supported by conservation, industry, and First Nations representatives, sets out a vision to protect 50% of the boreal in large interconnected areas, and is the only proposal that ensures a large portion of the ecosystem and the carbon stored there is protected. Learn more about the Framework >

1IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2000. Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry. R.T. Watson, I.R. Noble, B. Bolin, N.H. Ravindranath, D.J. Verardo, and D.J. Dokken (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.
2 Carlson, M., Wells, J., Roberts, D. 2009. The Carbon the World Forgot: Conserving the Capacity of Canada’s Boreal Forest Region to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change. Boreal Songbird Initiative and Canadian Boreal Initiative, Seattle, WA, and Ottawa. 33 pp.
3 Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry. Special Report by the IPCC. (2000)
4 Bringing Down the Boreal. A Forest Ethics Report.
5 Woynillowicz, al. Oil Sands Fever, The Implications of Canada’s Oil Sands Rush. Pembina Institute Report. (2005).
6 Bordetsky, Ann Driving it Home: Choosing the Right Path for Fueling North America’s Transportation Future. NRDC, Western Resource Advocates, and Pembina Institute. P7, (2007).
7 Patty Glick. The Waterfowler’s Guide to Global Warming. National Wildlife Federation Report, June (2005)
8 Crick, H.Q.P. The Impact of Climate Change on Birds. Ibis 146:48-56. (2004)
9 Patty Glick, (2005)
10 Western Boreal Forest, Canada Region 5. Ducks Unlimited online,


Find us on:
Facebook Twitter YouTube RSS Feed

Take Action
Sign up for Boreal Birds E-Updates

Carbon the World Forgot
Report Highlights Importance of the Boreal Forest
View Report >

Learn about Boreal birds and global warming

Support conservation: drink Boreal Blend coffee

89% of Pine Grosbeaks breed in the Boreal

Find Boreal media in our News Database

Banner photo credit: CPAWS, by Juri Peepre