Western Boreal Forest - Canada

The Canadian section of the Western Boreal Forest, a central breeding ground for many duck species and one of DU's conservation initiatives

The boreal forest is the world's largest land-based ecosystem. In Canada, it covers two-thirds of the country. At least 20 percent of the boreal forest is comprised of wetlands, and millions of ducks breed in this vast, largely unspoiled region. In some years, this amounts to about 40 percent of the continental duck population.

Millions of other migratory waterbirds and billions of landbirds also use the Western Boreal Forest (WBF). However, human impact on this area is increasing. The WBF is ranked No. 3 of the 25 most important and threatened waterfowl habitats on the continent.

Importance to waterfowl

  • Map of Western Boreal Forest - CanadaThousands of lakes and wetlands provide critical breeding, staging and molting habitats for North American waterfowl and waterbirds.
  • The WBF holds 12 million to 14 million ducks during the breeding season and is especially important to scaup, mallard, wigeon, green-winged teal and scoters.

Habitat issues

  • The wetlands once considered remote, stable and undisturbed are beginning to be transformed as the resource-rich region is developed.
  • Environmental pressures include forest management; agriculture; climate change; hydroelectric development; and oil, gas and mineral extraction.
  • Dramatic increases in these industries have placed wetlands, water and waterfowl populations at risk.

DU's conservation focus

  • In 1997, DU founded the Western Boreal Forest Initiative, dedicated to identifying and conserving wetland and waterfowl habitats in the region.
  • DU and its partners work closely with natural resource managers in both public and private sectors to ensure that development activities have minimal impact on wetlands, watersheds and waterfowl populations.
  • DU's current activities in the region are focused on land cover inventory and mapping, waterfowl surveys, wetland/waterfowl productivity research and hydrologic/wetland risk mapping.

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