Canadian Boreal Forests | WWF

Canadian Boreal Forests

Marsh habitat Presqu'ile Park, Ontario, Canada.

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Eastern Canadian Shield taiga; Northwest Territories taiga; and Northern Canadian Shield taiga.

It includes varied plant communities, from lichen-rich open conifer forests to gallery forests of enormous white spruce that support a wide diversity of insects, amphibians, birds, and mammals.

Taiga is the habitat just south of the arctic tundra. Despite low precipitation, wetlands cover up to half of the ecoregion.

Northern Canadian Shield taiga is a transition zone between the boreal forests and the tundra, supporting both woodland and barren-ground caribou. Mosses, lichens, cottongrass, and very short dwarf birches cover the ground of this ecoregion.

1,713,000 sq. km (661,500 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Boreal Forests/Taiga

Geographic Location:

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Local Species

Species here include lynx (Lynx lynx), arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryi), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), black bear (U. americanus), wolf (Canis lupis), wolverine (Gulo gulo), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), brown lemming (Lemmus trimucronatus), and the Northern red-backed vole (Clethrionomys rutilus).

Bird species include ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula), willow and rock ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus and L. mutus), common redpoll (Carduelis flammea), red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), and harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus).

Characteristic tree species include Black spruce (Picea mariana), White spruce (P. glauca), Tamarack (Larix laricina), Dwarf birch (Betula spp.), Willow (Salix spp.), and Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera).

Lac des Loups Marins, Quebec is home to a very rare population of about 300 landlocked freshwater seals. This ecoregion includes most of the year-round range of the George River barren-ground caribou herd, the world's largest migrating herd of caribou, containing an estimated 800,000 animals.

	© WWF / Chris Martin BAHR
Wolverine (Gulo gulo).
© WWF / Chris Martin BAHR

Featured species

The snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) is a medium-sized rabbit. It is named after its hind feet, which are very long with toes that can be spread out to act like snowshoes. These large feet also have fur on the soles which protects them from the cold and increases traction.

Over most of this rabbit's range, the color of its coat varies seasonally. Its summer pelage is rusty, grayish brown. During the winter its coat is white, except for the eyelids and tips of the ears. The snowshoe hare's other common name, varying hare, reflects this characteristic. They are typically solitary but live in high densities of up to 10,000 per square mile. They are most active just before sunset to just after sunrise.

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Major threats include logging in the southwestern portions, and large-scale mining activities further north. Most of the habitat loss is due to disturbance around small communities.

Oil and gas development, and the associated exploration phases of these industries are serious threats, including the road building that accompanies these projects. Caribou hunting is poorly monitored and has the potential to impact the population if excessive.
	© WWF / James W. THORSELL
Clearcut, Queen Charlotte island, British Columbia, Canada.

WWF’s work

Canada is home to more than 10% of the world's forests, including 30% of the boreal forest. WWF-Canada works to protect, manage and restore that precious endowment. WWF’s goal is to secure protection for an additional 3 million hectares of forest landscapes in the commercial forest zones by 2007. WWF is building an equally strong freshwater conservation framework for future work.

Key activities include:
  • Helping to protect large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the United States.
  • Helping to develop credible FSC standards with tangible conservation gains.
  • Working with the forest industry in Quebec to establish a network of protected areas in the province's boreal forest area.
  • Helping to develop High Conservation Value Forest protocols and protected areas planning tools (such as the Assessment of Representation GIS Tool) to help forestry companies identify the most valuable areas of biodiversity within their tenures.

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