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The Boreal Forest Region

northern sunsetThe natural region known as the boreal forest is an extensive circumpolar band of deep woodlands and wetlands that covers much of the north-central to northern landscapes of Asia, Europe, and North America. In North America, over 60 percent of the total forested area in Canada and Alaska is that taken up by boreal forested lands.

The boreal forest has a long natural history, having emerged at the end of the last ice age when plant life bearing the characteristics suitable to survival in the harsh northern climate took hold of the land in the wake of glacial retreat. The evolution of the boreal forest over thousands of years has shaped the region’s unique characteristics, such as its wide diversity of ecosystems and adaptive plant and animal species.

It would be unwise to characterize the boreal forest as a static living region. Change, whether large as through a forest fire, or small like the subtle shifting of hues in the autumn, is probably the only constant in the northern woodlands. Human presence in the region, whether through a traditional fur-trapping economy, or through more recent developments brought on by heavy industry and the modern infrastructure required to support such industry, has only accelerated the process of change.

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            For more on Aboriginal hunters and trappers in Canada’s northwest Boreal forest, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
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