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 December 08, 2007
Our Boreal Forests are the World's Carbon Vault!

 Vancouver, Canada - Among the many reports, position papers and high level statements by attendees at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali (December 3 to 10, 2007), one of the most significant was the release of several maps that illustrate the important role of Canada’s Boreal Forest as the world’s largest terrestrial carbon storehouse. Three maps were released by the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), a cooperative effort to conserve the planet’s remaining boreal forests and to promote the importance of the boreal forest in mitigating climate change.

IBCC organizations include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Canadian Boreal Initiative, ForestEthics and the Boreal Songbird Initiative.  The IBCC is an initiative of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change an organization which brings together business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts to create a new approach to the complex issue of climate change.

The three maps detail the distribution of peatlands, permafrost, and organic carbon in soils across Canada’s Boreal Forest.  The Boreal forest stretches across Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia and accounts for 50% of the world’s remaining original forests and contains approximately 22% of carbon stored in the world’s land surface, making it the largest land reservoir of carbon on the planet.

click to enlarge"The Boreal Forest is to carbon what Fort Knox is to gold," said Jeff Wells, the Senior Scientist at the International Boreal Conservation Campaign. "It’s an internationally important repository for carbon, built up over thousands of years. The maps released today document where and how these vital carbon reserves are distributed across Canada. We should do everything we can to ensure that the carbon in this storehouse is conserved."

Scott Goetz, a Senior Scientist at Woods Hole Research Center, noted, "The mapping analysis released today provides vital information to inform modeling of the role of boreal and arctic ecosystems and their feedbacks to the global climate system." Canada’s Boreal Forest stores an estimated 186 billion tons of carbon in its widespread forest and peatland Ecosystems -the equivalent of 27 years’ worth of global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Global Forest Watch Canada compiled the detailed analysis for the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC) after reviewing extensive government and scientific data of the region. This globally significant carbon storehouse is due to three key factors: Canada’s Boreal Forest Includes the World’s Largest Peatlands; Vast Permafrost Areas are Key to Carbon Storage; and Boreal Soils Rich in Carbon

One of the maps released at the conference displays the Boreal peatlands that stretch from Quebec and Labrador westward to the Mackenzie Valley, with significant concentrations in northern Ontario and Manitoba.

Peatlands are recognized worldwide as important for carbon storage, storing at least six times as much carbon per hectare as forested mineral soils.  Canada’s Boreal Forest includes the world’s largest area of peatlands, encompassing 12 percent of the nation’s land area. 

A second map illustrates the northern portions of Canada’s Boreal Forest which contain carbon-rich permafrost.  Permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, occupies about 25 percent of the world’s and 50 percent of Canada’s total land area.  One third of the Boreal forest is permafrost and overall, Canada’s permafrost is one of the largest stores of carbon in North America.

click to enlargeThe third map depicts the carbon stored in Canadian Boreal soils.  The slow decomposition of organic matter in the cool Boreal region results in an accumulation of carbon in the soil.  Nearly 90 percent of the organic carbon found in Canadian soils occurs in Boreal and Tundra ecosystems.

On November 21, Canada’s federal government announced 25 million acres of new land protection for the Northwest Territories in Canada’s Boreal region, and in a key speech last week, the provincial government of Ontario pledged to "work with northern and native communities in Ontario’s far north to implement a plan that protects the boreal forest-a key contributor in the fight against climate change."



For More Information: Canada News Wire (CNW)

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