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Canada’s role in the boreal forest

The boreal zone spans from up near the arctic tundra to the edge of the southern temperate region
The boreal zone spans from up near the arctic tundra to the edge of the southern temperate region. National Forest Week runs Sept. 17 to Sept. 23. Photo: Unsplash

As Canada recognizes Forest Week across the country, it’s a good time to consider what makes Canada’s forests special, and how they fit into the forests around the world.

Canada’s boreal forest covers a large part of the country because it falls withing the boreal zone. Canada has 28 per cent of the world’s boreal zone, which is a circumpolar region that spans from the northern hemisphere where the trees become sparse to the southern temperate zone. The boreal zone can be imagined as a ribbon that wraps around the globe, creating a similar ecosystem all around the earth at similar longitudes — within the imaginary ribbon, Canada has almost 30 per cent of that space.

The boreal zone also touches Norway, Russia, Sweden, China and other countries that occupy a similar geographic zone that reaches up into the northern portions of the world.

As the boreal zone runs laterally at a similar longitudinal region, a map of Canada shows just how much of the country is within the boreal zone.

From the western edges of the Yukon to the eastern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador, most of Canada’s provinces have enormous portions their landmass within the boreal zone.

While the term ‘boreal’ is often affiliated with the ‘boreal forest’, the boreal zone includes areas without trees. In the absence of thick forested areas, some regions may have wetlands, lakes, or rivers.

Although British Columbia is perhaps the province most often associated with thick forests, much of the province –except the northern area– are part of the temperate rainforest, which is not in the boreal zone.

Unlike some of the forests in southern B.C., Natural Resource Canada said the boreal zone isn’t part of ‘ancient’ forests around the world. In fact, the boreal zone is comprised of relatively ‘young’ compared to its temperate counterpart.

Given the size of the zone, it shouldn’t be surprising that it is home to an array of species of animals, organisms, and more than three million people.

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