Great Northern Forest at Risk

Written by Nicole Barker, ESLLC 2016-2017

One in every four trees globally are found in the Great Northern Forest. It is a boreal forest that stretches from Alaska, to Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. Most important, the soil, permafrost, and trees act as carbon sinks and store more carbon than all tropical rainforests. Recently however, it has been at risk from industrial scale fires and logging.


The Great Northern Forest is home to indigenous species and amazing biodiversity. It is home to iconic wildlife such as black bears, moose, brook trout, and white-tailed deer and home to approximately two million people. It is considered a single ecosystem although separated by both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


For most of the 1900s, the forest was owned by timber companies that practiced and maintained sustainable techniques. Then in the mid-1990s, the land that had been owned for many years by the timber companies was sold to private owners for money. More than 80% of the forest is now owned privately and may not have legal protection. The Canadian, Russian, Finnish, and Swedish governments allow companies to destroy huge parts of the forest. As population continues to grow in areas like Boston, Portland, and along the Connecticut River, there is an increased pressure from the American government to develop and therefore fragment the forest. In Canada, almost 400,000 jobs are supported by the Great Northern Forest with jobs including mining, trapping, oil and gas exploration, development, and forestry.


Climate related hazards are also posing huge threats to the forest. With warmer temperatures, it will become easier for invasive species to take over native species’ habitats and wipe them out. Fire risks will increase and destroy more of the forest releasing more carbon into the atmosphere. The soil will become drier and there will be more frequent heavy rainfalls.


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