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Habitat Fragmentation

Oil sands companies are not the only human users of the boreal forest in northern Alberta. Forestry companies, hunters, trappers, even people looking for recreational activities such as boating or cross-country skiing, all share the boreal forest with its natural inhabitants. The total effect of all this activity on the forest is a concern - especially as more and more oil sands projects begin operations. It is possible to limit the total damage by better planning and coordinating different uses of the forest. Forestry companies and oil sands companies can cooperate to use the same cut lines and roads through a process called Integrated Land Management (ILM).

This kind of cooperation can also decrease the amount of habitat fragmentation in the boreal forest. Habitat Fragmentation means breaking up the natural environment of plants and animals. Increasingly Alberta's remaining forested areas resemble islands of trees in a larger network of cut lines, well sites, mines, pipeline corridors, forestry roads, plant sites and human settlements. These disturbances can result in species being introduced along forest edges, and the displacement of other species. They can also encourage animals to hunt and kill more prey and put some plants and animals at risk. For example, some naturalists worry that the woodland caribou of northeastern Alberta may be threatened by a combination of increased predation and competition for food resources from deer and moose able to extend their ranges due to habitat disturbances.

If you want additional information on environmental issues in Alberta click here.

A pulpwood forest clearing

A pulpwood forest clearing