Projects & Publications

The International Boreal Conservation Science Panel (IBCSP) is actively engaged in a variety of ways to inform government, industry and the greater public of some of the most pressing conservation needs and opportunities within Canada’s boreal forest region. Products of the IBCSP have ranged from journal correspondence and public letters to peer-reviewed reports and policy briefings. Scroll below to find some of the Panel’s recent work.

LETTER: Include Terrestrial Carbon in Provincial Climate Strategies

Canada’s boreal forest region stores a minimum of 208 billion tonnes of carbon in its trees, wetlands, and soils (equivalent to more than 20 years’ worth of the world’s COemissions from fossil fuels). As the governments of Ontario and Quebec develop strategies to reduce their overall carbon footprint, incorporating terrestrial carbon-based conservation into these strategies would go a long way toward reducing future emissions sources while simultaneously preserving critical ecological functions.

View letter to Ontario (English) >
View letter to Quebec (French) >

POLICY BRIEF: Conserving the world’s last great forests

Less than 25% of the world’s original forest cover remains highly intact today, with the vast majority coming from Canada, Russia, and Brazil. Conserving these last few remaining intact forest habitats is crucial in the effort to preserve species and mitigate the effects of climate change. The IBCSP issued a policy brief detailing why at least 50% of these remaining intact forest tracts must be protected to maintain ecological health as the world adapts to climate change and an increasing human footprint.

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LETTER: Protecting the George River caribou herd’s calving grounds

The George River caribou herd of Quebec and Labrador was once the largest caribou herd in the world at more than 800,000 animals. In the past few decades the herd has dropped more than 90 percent to just 50,000 animals today. The IBCSP has issued a letter in support of the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area’s final draft land-use plan, which would protect the herd’s 14,000 km² calving grounds.

POLICY BRIEF: Opportunities for habitat conservation for Newfoundland’s caribou population

Newfoundland’s caribou, once the last remaining sub-population of woodland caribou in relatively stable condition, have proven not to be immune to the nation-wide decline in the species. Panelist Dr. John Jacobs, who resides in Newfoundland, co-authored a bulletin for the Canadian Boreal Initiative to help Newfoundland understand the challenges facing their caribou population and opportunities for maximizing conservation of intact caribou habitat.

LETTER: Showing support for Quebec’s Plan Nord

Quebec’s Plan Nord (translation: Northern Plan) is an enormous plan that includes conservation provisions that would protect at least half of Quebec’s vast far north. The region, 1.2 million km² of mostly pristine boreal forest and tundra, was mostly unprotected prior to the Plan Nord despite renewed interest in bringing more development to the north. The IBCSP joined more than 700 other scientists from around the world to offer their support for the plans bold  vision to balance protection with development carried out using leading-edge sustainability practices, but asserted the plan must be led by leading science and respect for Aboriginal rights to its success.

LETTER: Supporting nomination of Pimachiowin Aki as a  World Heritage Site

To the east of Lake Winnipeg lies a 43,000 km² expanse of intact boreal forest and wetlands where Aboriginal communities have lived off the land for thousands of years. This area, named Pimachiowin Aki (translation: the land that gives life), is being proposed to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If it is accepted, it would be the first in Canada that falls under both cultural and natural designation.. The IBCSP submitted a letter in support of the World Heritage nomination that was included as a key part of the recent nomination submission.

POLICY BRIEF: Sustaining woodland caribou

Woodland caribou, which once roamed freely throughout Canada and the northern United States, have been in retreat ever since the industrial revolution. They have lost approximately half of their historic range due to industrial development and human encroachment and their population is estimated at just 30,000-40,000 today, down from nearly 200,000 just 40 years ago. The IBCSP has composed a policy brief summarizing how to curb this decline and ensure viable woodland caribou populations in the long term.

REPORT: Protecting Canada’s “blue” forest

Anyone who’s visited Canada’s boreal forest can attest to the region’s plentiful bounty of water. Millions of lakes, thousands of pristine rivers and countless wetlands stretch throughout this diverse landscape, making the boreal the largest concentration of unfrozen freshwater on earth. The Pew Environment Group issued a comprehensive report on the aquatic values of the boreal forest and the threats facing it. The IBCSP wrote the foreword for this remarkable overview of the boreal forest’s ‘blue’ legacy and how it contributes to global environmental health.

LETTER: Calling on world leaders to step up boreal protection

In light of the boreal forest’s vast and extensive ability to sequester and store carbon, members of the IBCSP teamed up with 5 other international scientists to call on leaders of boreal forest nations to better protect their boreal forest ecosystems. This letter highlights the boreal forest’s unique role in mitigating climate change and the dangers of industrial development on boreal landscapes. Three IBSCP members also issued a follow-up correspondence in Nature.

REPORT: Demonstrating the boreal forest’s vast carbon stores

Although deforestation accounts for a significant portion of human greenhouse gas emissions, it has been largely overshadowed by emissions from the transportation and industrial sectors. Nowhere on earth are forest’s contributions to mitigating climate change more evident than boreal forests, which have  at least twice as much stored carbon in trees, soil, and peat as in tropical forests. The IBCSP wrote the foreword for this groundbreaking report, which helped put boreal forests of on the map for climate scientists and officials around the world.

LETTER: Calling on Quebec to fulfill boreal commitment

In 2008, Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced his government’s intentions of protecting at least half of Quebec’s northern boreal forest and tundra from development. Coined the Plan Nord (translation: northern plan), this sweeping plan could put Quebec among the world leaders in forest protection. However, members of the IBCSP cautioned that only if the plan is led by science will its lofty ambitions be successful. They joined more than 500 international scientists calling on Quebec to fulfill this vision using a science-first approach based on the unique ecological values of Quebec’s north.

BACKGROUND: Foundation of the IBCSP

Inspired by the success of the 2007 letter from more than 1,500 international scientists supporting conservation of at least half of the boreal forest, the IBCSP formed to continue advocating for the role of science in public policy decisions impacting the future of Canada’s boreal forest. The fourteen Panel members came together to better publicize the boreal forest’s unique values and the threats facing it. More can be found at the About the Panel page.

LETTER: Advocating a new approach

When scientists came together a half-century ago to put figures on how much of an ecological landscape needed to be protected to retain basic species and functions, the impacts of industrial development to natural systems were incompletely understood. The early estimates of proportional protection of ecosystems ranged between 10-20 percent but are now known to vastly underestimate what needs to be protected from an ecological standpoint. More than 1,500 international scientists, including the fourteen IBCSP members, came together to receommend that at least half of the boreal forest be protected from industrial development while allowing sustainable development on the remaining half. This balanced approach fulfills the ecological needs of the forest while still sustaining local communities and economies.

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