Defining the boreal
Two boreal terms are often confused: the “boreal zone” and the “boreal forest.”
The boreal zone is the broad circumpolar vegetation zone of the high northern latitudes. Although mainly covered with trees, the boreal zone is more than just forest. It contains lakes, rivers and wetlands, as well as naturally treeless terrain such as alpine areas, heathlands in regions where the climate is influenced by the ocean, and grasslands in drier areas.
The boreal forest (singular) is a colloquial term. It is often used to refer to the overall forested area within the boreal zone, and sometimes to refer to the boreal zone itself because forests dominate this landscape. This term is used inconsistently and can lead to confusion.
Boreal forests (plural) is the preferred term for the forested areas within the boreal zone. Boreal forests are made up of cold-hardy trees, many of them coniferous (such as pine, spruce, larch and fir) and some deciduous (such as poplar and birch).
North America’s boreal zone
In North America the boreal zone covers roughly 627 million hectares, over half of which (362 million hectares) is forest and other wooded land. Canada contains most of the boreal zone, 552 million hectares, including 307 million hectares of forests and other wooded land.
|Total area||Forest land||Other wooded land||Non-forest land||Alpine land||Water|
|Canada||551 979||223 468||83 667||151 677||24 229||54 100|
|United States||73 701||47 324||7 456||9 753||8 218||1 282|
|Greenland||1 595||0||8||1 570||0||15|
|Saint Pierre & Miquelon (France)||23||3||0||20||0||1|
Source: The extent of the North American boreal zone (May 2009)