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article imageCanada moves to protect world's largest expanse of boreal forest

By Karen Graham     May 17, 2018 in Environment
Ottawa - Alberta is now home to the largest area of protected boreal forest in the world, following an announcement Tuesday that set aside more than 13,600 square kilometers (5,251 square miles) of land across much of northeast Alberta.
On Tuesday in Edmonton, the federal and provincial governments, the Tallcree First Nation, oilsands giant Syncrude and the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced the creation of the new protected areas.
The protected zone will be free from logging and oil and gas exploration. The province will be formally establishing four parks - Kazan, Richardson, Dillon River and Birch River, as well as expand the Birch Mountains Wildland Provincial Park.
With the exception of Dillon Park, all the other parks will border on Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. And if you consider the size of Wood Buffalo National Park and the existing and new parks, the protected lands will form a conservation area of 67,735 square kilometers (26,153 square miles), almost twice the size of Vancouver Island, or roughly the size of West Virginia.
Old boreal forest settlement on the René-Levasseur island  Manicouagan  Québec.
Old boreal forest settlement on the René-Levasseur island, Manicouagan, Québec.
Colocho (CC BY-SA 3.0)
"It is very rare that you can announce a protected area network that is globally significant in such incredible size," said Bob Demulder, the NCC's regional vice-president for the Alberta region told CBC Canada. "These things don't happen very often."
Globally significant conservation move
The move to protect Canada's environmentally significant forest lands comes shortly after a study found large swaths of Canada's boreal forest are at risk of disappearing by the end of the century as a result of climate change elevating the risk of wildfires, drought, and invasive bugs
Canada's Boreal forest comprises about one-third of a band of green in the Northern Hemisphere that reaches across North America, Europe, and Asia, mostly north of the 50th parallel. Canada's boreal forests cover almost 60 percent of the country’s land area.
This green band is dominated by coniferous forests, particularly spruce, and interspersed with vast wetlands, mostly bogs, and fens. The boreal region of Canada includes eight ecozones. While the biodiversity of regions varies, each ecozone has a characteristic native flora and fauna.
The Canada warbler nests on the ground in boreal forests.
The Canada warbler nests on the ground in boreal forests.
Emmett Hume
Canada has a real treasure in its boreal forests. They contain the largest wetlands area of any place in the world. serving as breeding ground for over 12 million waterbirds and millions of land birds. The forests are also home to threatened wood bison, peregrine falcon, and woodland caribou populations.
"It's not just forest, it's really the matrix of forest and wetlands and waters - and we can protect those at a scale that is an opportunity lost in the rest of the world," said Dan Kraus, a conservation biologist with the NCC, reports the BBC.
More about Canada, Boreal forest, Alberta, protected area, Conservation
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