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Taiga/Boreal Forest

The taiga ecosystems comprise the largest discrete terrestrial biome on earth covering large tracts of sub-arctic lands (North America, Europe and Russia), which are most often characterized by dense patches of conifer species (spruce, hemlock and fir) know as boreal forests. These forests may also contain some deciduous species of birch, poplar and aspen particularly at the southern reaches of the taiga. Like the tundra, the taiga supports a relatively small range of hibernating and migratory mammals (caribou, deer, bears and wolves) and birds. Cold winters and short summers allow for some thawing however the slow rate of organic decomposition results in poor, thin soils.

Until recently, our boreal forests had remained virtually untouched by human activities. Now, oil mining, unsustainable (illegal) logging, and clearing for agriculture/livestock are considered the major causes of degradation in the taiga ecosystems.


Alberta’s Boreal Forest
The boreal forest is a circumpolar band of mostly coniferous forests extending across the subarctic latitudes of Russia, Scandinavia and North America. The boreal accounts for approximately one quarter of the world’s canopy forest, comprises 77% of Canada’s total forest land, and covers almost half of Alberta. In Alberta, the boreal is located in the northern half of the province and is characterized by mixedwood forests comprised of both coniferous (spruce and pine) and deciduous (poplar and birch) tree species.

Migrating Boreal Forest
Just south of the tundra that rings the Arctic Circle lie vast, cold-adapted, evergreen forests. Spruce and pine predominate over a smaller contingent of hardy deciduous trees such as aspen and birch, all eking a living out of frigid winter temperatures, frozen soils, minimal moisture, and frequent fires. These vast tracts of uninterrupted, spruce-dominated forest create a sense of uniformity, even changelessness—a stillness of time.
The designation of Northwestern Ontario Forest Capital of Canada 2000 included a number of legacy projects, one of which was the Boreal Forest Website. The site was originally designed by Aki Peltonen (Stonehaven Innovations) and was modified and transferred to Lakehead University Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment in the spring of 2002. The site will continue to evolve with new additions such as international forestry and materials aimed at young audiences.

If you care about clean air and water, you care about the Boreal Forest. Stretching from Alaska clear across Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, the Boreal is an astonishing wilderness the size of 13 Californias. It holds more freshwater than anywhere else on the planet, and plays an essential role in cleaning the air that we breathe and in fighting climate change. For hundreds of years over 500 First Nations communities have called the Boreal home. It is also habitat to rare species of wolves, bears, and woodland caribou, as well as half of North America’s songbirds.

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