The Boreal Zone is the wide area that lies between the treeless tundra of the arctic zone in northern Canada and the temperate zone in southern Canada. The Boreal Forest is the forested area within the larger boreal zone.
1. The Boreal Zone circles the world:
The world’s boreal zone is often called “circumpolar” because it circles the Northern Hemisphere, forming a ring around the North Pole, just south of the Arctic Circle. Countries with forests and land in the boreal zone include Canada, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Russia, China and a few others.
Worldwide, the boreal zone covers:
- 1.9 billion hectares
- 14% of Earth’s land
- 33% of Earth’s forested area
- 28% of the world’s boreal zone (552 million hectares)
- 75% of forests and woodlands in the boreal zone (307 million hectares)
2.The Boreal Zone includes forested and treeless areas:
Much of Canada’s boreal zone is covered in forested lands with pine, spruce, larch, fir, poplar and birch. The boreal zone is more than just one big forest; it also includes:
- thousands of lakes, rivers and wetlands
- many naturally treeless areas such on mountains and in coastal regions
3.The Boreal Zone supports a highly diverse wildlife:
Many mammals, insects, fungi and micro-organisms live in the boreal zone, including:
- 150 bird species (half the bird species in Canada)
- Woodland caribou – or boreal caribou, as the population in the boreal zone is known, which like to stay in the forests rather than roam the tundra like other caribou.
4.Many people live and work in the Boreal Zone:
- 3.7 million people in the world live in the boreal zone, mostly in remote and rural communities.
- 70% of Aboriginal communities in Canada live in forested regions. The boreal forest is culturally and economically significant to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.
5.The Boreal Forest isn’t “ancient” wilderness:
Canada’s boreal forest is often portrayed as one vast tract of ancient, pristine wilderness but this isn’t the case. Although the boreal region itself is ancient, the boreal forest:
- is made up mostly of trees that are relatively young compared with many that grow in more temperate climates
- is regularly affected by forest fire, insects and other natural disturbances
- continually renews itself through these natural disturbances
6.Forest fires, insects and diseases help the Boreal Forest:
The boreal forest needs natural disturbances such as forest fires and outbreaks of insects and disease. These disturbances:
- remove aged trees from the forest
- expose the land to sunlight again
- allow the next group of trees to germinate and grow into a new forest
- release nutrients from the trees
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.