Species at risk in the boreal forest
What is a species at risk?
Species at Risk are species that have had a significant decline in population in a certain area. This includes plants, insects, reptiles, birds, mammals – any living wildlife. Species can be designated provincially at risk (numbers have declined substantially in a province/territory), or federally at risk (numbers have declined across all of Canada).
Species at risk fall under four categories:
- Extirpated – a species that no longer lives in an area it used to inhabit, though it can still be found in other parts of the world.
- Endangered – a species that is at extreme risk of becoming extirpated or extinct.
- Threatened – a species that is likely to become endangered if actions are not taken to reduce biological threats or human impact.
- Special Concern – a species that has declined in population due to various threats, and may become threatened or endangered.
All species at risk are protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This means that regulations, assessments, recovery initiatives, and other measures have been put in place in hopes of restoring the populations of these at-risk wildlife species.
What species are at risk in the boreal forest?
How has the declining health of the boreal forest affected these species?
The spruce budworm outbreak in the 1970-80s killed many of the balsam fir and spruce trees in the boreal forest of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. An event of this nature creates room for new trees to grow, and normally, the forest would naturally regenerate. This means that new habitat would be formed, and the young trees would become valuable food sources for many different species. With an abundance of food, the moose population in the park began to increase (as the moose have no natural predators since the extirpation of wolves). This heavy browsing by moose has impeded the regeneration of the boreal forest, and areas that were once abundant with trees have now been taken over by thick grass and ferns.
The open grasslands make it difficult for boreal trees to grow without help, and are an unsuitable home for other plants and wildlife characteristic of the boreal forest, including species at risk such as Bicknell’s thrush, Canada lynx, and American marten. These species need forests for habitat, thick tree cover for protection, and a diversity of animals and plants to eat. The decline of the forest has significantly impacted the population of all three species.
How will the Bring Back the Boreal project help these species at risk?
Parks Canada is committed to the protection and recovery of species at risk found in its national parks, national marine conservation areas, national historic sites and other protected areas.
Through the implementation of pilot restoration initiatives, the Bring Back the Boreal project aims to begin to restore balance to the boreal forest, enabling a healthy, diverse, and sustainable ecosystem in which all wildlife can thrive.
How do I stay connected?
To learn about citizen science and volunteer initiatives with the Bring Back the Boreal project – Stay Connected.