Ontario's Great Boreal Forest
The Boreal Forest – A Globally Significant Ecosystem
Canada's boreal forest is an unbroken garland of green spanning our country from the Yukon to the Atlantic: at 5.9 million square kilometres (or 1.5 billion acres), the boreal forest occupies about 25% of the land area of North America. It is one of the world's most valuable natural areas, containing thousands of fresh water lakes and rivers, wildlife habitat for wide-ranging species such as woodland caribou and wolverine, and vibrant northern cultures. Black spruce and jack pine dominate the boreal forest. This vast wooded region is home to billions of migratory songbirds, half of North America's waterfowl, healthy populations of wolf, moose and lynx and an abundance of game fish like lake trout, northern pike and walleye. It also provides habitat for more than 20 species at risk.
Wetlands cover 30% of this remarkable forest – in fact, the boreal holds one of the largest reservoirs of fresh water in the world. These wetlands act like a giant system of sponges, absorbing and filtering water and releasing it slowly into the surrounding landscape. This results in protection from flooding, cleaner water and higher water tables.
A critical – and increasingly important – role of the boreal ecosystem is mitigating global climate change. This unique region also helps shield us from global warming by storing massive amounts of carbon in its soils and wetlands.
In Ontario, the boreal forest makes up a large part of the province. North of the French River, almost two-thirds of Ontario's landmass is boreal forest.
This forest is characterized by natural disturbance. Frequent wildfires and outbreaks of defoliating insects renew huge swathes of the landscape. The result is a remarkably varied patchwork of habitats. Dense carpets of new growth mix with older stands of black spruce and fir laced with mazes of grey-green lichen-covered clearings. There are pockets of aspen and birch, jack pine ridges, expansive open mats of bright green and yellow muskeg, wavy-lined string bogs, beaver ponds, meadows, marshes and creeks, rivers and lakes of every size and description.
Ontarians are extremely fortunate to have such a large expanse of so-called "frontier" forests - places where the impact of industrial development remains relatively light. Few such places remain on Earth.
Even with the globally significant benefits the boreal forest provides, only 8% of it has been set aside from industrial development across Canada and, at present, a mere 9% in Ontario.
If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Julee Boan, Boreal Program Manager by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 807-286-1789.