Boreal forests and caribou populations in Quebec and Ontario are being degraded due to logging, study says

A study led by researchers from Canada and Australia shows that logging is degrading boreal forests in Quebec and Ontario, threatening local caribou populations.

The study, published in the journal MDPI, was led by researchers from Griffith University in Australia and the University of Toronto and Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada.

Researchers found that between 1976 and 2020, 14,024,619 hectares, or more than 140,000 square kilometers, of forest were cleared in parts of Quebec and Ontario, some of which were more than 100 years old and had a direct impact on wildlife in the region.

Logging activity in both provinces peaked in 2000, according to the study, and despite a sharp decline in logging during the 2008 global financial crisis, “the cumulative area continued to increase” over time.

The researchers said there are only eight patches of old-growth forest in the study area that have an area greater than 50,000 hectares, which is the threshold for defining “intact forest landscapes,” areas important for the conservation of biodiversity in Canada’s ecosystems. .

The researchers noted that older forest areas are crucial habitat for caribou, and while there are 21.2 million hectares of old-growth forests in the parts of Quebec and Ontario included in the study, they exist “as a large dispersion of patches.” throughout the region in “a highly anthropically altered forest.”

Of the 21 caribou populations in both provinces that were included in the study, researchers said 16 are at high risk, three are at very high risk and two are at low risk.

“Major changes are needed in the management of boreal forests in Ontario and Quebec to make them ecologically sustainable, including greater emphasis on protecting and restoring older forests, and to reduce risks to caribou populations,” they said. the researchers in the study.

The 19 caribou populations highlighted in the study should receive a “restoration” response rather than a “conservation” approach, the researchers added.

While it may seem like planting new trees is an easy solution, it still results in a loss of biodiversity and impacts key aspects of the ecosystem, according to the study. The researchers said this is because people are still interfering with a naturally regenerating forest and, by planting new trees, changing the habitat.

In Quebec, about 20 percent or 8.2 million hectares of forest were regenerated through tree plantations. In Ontario, planting new trees is often the province’s way of artificially regenerating forestland.

The study states that the federal government’s forest sustainability efforts are based on maximizing timber production and ensuring that “commercially desirable” trees are regenerated. In this way, the researchers said Ontario and Quebec have largely avoided deforestation; However, the protection and restoration of older forests is paramount.

Researchers said patches of older forests in both provinces need to be reserved and protected to restore caribou habitat and strengthen landscape integrity.

Leave a Comment