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Naturally-occurring ecosystem services provided by the Boreal, such as carbon storage and water filtration, are worth 2.5 times more than the value of extracting resources such as minerals and timber

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Boreal Forest in the News

World Wetlands Day 2011 - Forests for Water and Wetlands

February 2, 2011


Today marks the 40th anniversary of World Wetlands Day, as declared by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Their theme this year ties in very closely with the work and goals of the Canadian Boreal Initiative. They are celebrating "Forests for Water and Wetlands," which also honours 2011 as the International Year of Forests. Obviously, 2011 is the forests' year to shine!

The global importance of Canada’s Boreal Forest is already well-known: it is the world’s largest intact forest ecosystem, rivaling the Amazon Rainforest in size and ecological importance. It is the ancestral and current home of hundreds of aboriginal communities. It teems with billions of migratory birds, ducks, and geese, millions of caribou, and countless moose, black and grizzly bear. It captures and stores twice as much carbon as tropical forests. But Canada’s Boreal Forest plays an equally important role of protecting vast wetlands, lakes and rivers.

"Approximately 16 per cent of Canada's land area is covered by freshwater wetlands, making the country steward to about a quarter of the world's remaining wetlands. Wetlands are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. In Canada's Boreal Forest, they filter millions of litres of water on a daily basis and retain more fresh water than any other place in the world."

Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment [source]

For those working in the vast arenas of climate change, water filtration, and species protection, the importance of wetlands is clear. According to the Ramsar's wetlands page, wetlands in forests are:

  • biologically diverse, helping us manage our freshwater, and providing us with many other ‘services’ across the globe including vital roles in carbon storage – our allies in the face of climate change. Despite their utility, they are often under threat from development, from drainage and conversion.
  • The role of forests – wet or not – in our lives, and why looking after them matters. Vital to all human lives, freshwater availability on a global scale depends on our forests. So too, to a large extent, does freshwater quality.

To learn more about Wetlands and Forests, visit World Wetlands Day 2011. In addition to interesting facts, they also offer a variety of downloadable materials, including comic strips, stickers, and posters in three languages.

Wetlands in Canada's Boreal Forest

Here in Canada, the Boreal Forest and its freshwater contributes to climate stabilization, promotes ocean health, and supports hundreds of aboriginal communities through a variety of means. It also provides a safe haven for billions of birds and supports some of the last remaining wild fish runs and many species of big mammals. For many species that have been moved or extirpated from their southern ranges, such as the Atlantic Salmon, it provides the last intact habitat where healthy populations remain.

It also acts as an economic powerhouse with total ecosystem services including water filtration, carbon storage, and flood control estimated at over 700 billion dollars—more than half of that directly attributable to wetlands and waterways.


While habitat loss and fragmentation have impacted much of the world’s forests, Canada’s Boreal Forest remains the most intact forest left on earth. However, the threats posed by industrial activity and climate change create an urgency to protect this fragile ecosystem; without protection its unique and irreplaceable global contributions could be lost within a generation.

More resources for World Wetlands Day

Follow wetlands news on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/search/wetlands

Atlas Canada - Wetlands - Wetlands sustain more life than any other ecosystem - as much as many tropical forests and more than good farmland. Wetlands, which occupy 6% of the earth's land and freshwater surface, play a major role in maintaining the stability of the global environment.

Ducks Unlimited Canada - Everything wetlands

Conservation Ontario - Wetlands are the workhorses of our environment (very cool animated fact sheets)

Nature Conservancy of Canada - Wetland protection coincides with World Wetland Day

Environment Canada - Media release - Canada's Environment Minister Acknowledges the 40th Anniversary of the Singing of the Ramsar Convention

Environment Canada - Convention on Wetlands of International Importance

Nature Canada - World Wetlands Day

Resources for Rethinking - tips for teachers