Boreal biodiversity


Narrator: Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth in all its forms. It is the genes which make up all the species on earth, the species, and the way species assemble themselves into communities and ecosystems.

It provides stability and preserves the resilience of the planet’s ecosystems.

Biodiversity is the building block for all of the ecosystem services on which we depend; it produces oxygen, food, clean water and stores carbon.

But biodiversity is not the same everywhere; each ecosystem has its own unique characteristics.

Ian Thompson: Biodiversity in the boreal forest is distinct from the biodiversity associated with any of the other forest biomes and is distinct because the boreal forest is a disturbance driven ecosystem. Animals there have to be adapted to broad changes that are brought about by fire, insect infestation and so on.

Narrator: Canada’s evolving forest management practices attempt to mimic these natural disturbance dynamics to which the plants and animals of the boreal forest have become adapted.

Ian Thompson: Forest management planning involves the consideration of biodiversity long before anybody actually goes into the forest. Then when people do go into the forest and actually log it, it is done in such a way that we protect biodiversity at multiple scales.

Narrator: Even with the most careful planning, there are some impacts on biodiversity when harvesting, and other land use activities take place in the boreal forest.

The forest composition and structure are altered, and habitats can become fragmented.

Ultimately this change can be good for some species and negative for others. Populations of snowshoe hare for example, increase in forests that are growing back after disruption by wildfires or logging operations.

Additionally, shade-intolerant tree species, such as trembling aspen, grow better following harvesting. Harvesting creates the open conditions aspen requires to become established and stimulates the growth of new trees by removing large stems and increasing soil temperatures.

On the other hand, woodland caribou prefer relatively large, continuous tracts of forested land in which to forage, move between summer and winter habitats, mate and raise their young.

Natural disturbances and resource development are not the only factors that affect biodiversity; climate change is having a noticeable effect in the boreal forest.

Ian Thompson: So climate change is affecting biodiversity in the boreal forest now largely because the seasons are changing and as a result of that the phonology, in other words the way in which the seasons progress is changing. So for example bud flushes earlier in the spring, which means there may be a temporal disconnect between when animals like moose or caribou have their calves and when green vegetation is available.

Narrator: Given the importance of biodiversity, the Federal and Provincial governments monitor specific scientific indicators.

By continually monitoring indicators, scientists are able to measure pressures on, and changes in the state of, biodiversity.

Ian Thompson: In forest systems in particular, we mostly use indicators as a way of measuring how well biodiversity is doing and responds to various forms of management so development of oil and gas, development of mines, placement of roads as well as forest management itself.

We monitor certain indicators at various levels, so, we might monitor individual species. For example, we might count caribou or we might count moose, we might count birds as a measure of how well they are doing or how they are responding to change.

Narrator: In collaboration with their provincial colleagues, scientists with Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service conduct research that informs the development of sustainable forest management practices and policies in Canada.

These practices and policies are designed to help conserve and protect the boreal forest’s unique biodiversity.

Maintaining the variety, relative abundance and quality of Canada’s biodiversity in the boreal forest is necessary for the preservation of plant and animal species, and the ecosystem goods and services they provide.