Canadian Forest Service Publications

Effects of natural resource development on the terrestrial biodiversity of Canadian boreal forests. 2014. Venier, L.A.; Thompson, I.D.; Fleming, R.; Malcolm, J.; Aubin, I.; Trofymow, J.A.; Langor, D.; Sturrock, R.; Patry, C.; Outerbridge, R.O,; Holmes, S.B.; Haeussler, S.; De Grandpré, L.; Chen, H.Y.H.; Bayne, A.; Arsenault, A.; Brant, J.P. Environmental Reviews 22(4):457-490.

Year: 2014

Available from: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35685

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/er-2013-0075

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Abstract

Much of Canada’s terrestrial biodiversity is supported by boreal forests. Natural resource development in boreal forests poses risks to this biodiversity. This paper reviews the scientific literature to assess the effects of natural resource development on terrestrial biodiversity in Canadian boreal forests. We address four questions: (1) To what extent have Canadian boreal forests changed due to natural resource development? (2) How has biodiversity responded to these changes? (3) Will the biodiversity of second-growth forests converge with that of primary boreal forests? (4) Are we losing species from boreal forests? We focus on trees, understory plants, insects, fungi, selected mammals, and songbirds because these groups have been most studied. We reviewed more than 600 studies and found that changes in community composition are prevalent in response to large-scale conversion of forest types, changes in stand structures and age distributions, and altered landscape structure resulting from forest management and habitat loss associated with other developments such as oil and gas, hydroelectric, and mining. The southern boreal forest has been more highly impacted than the north due to more extensive forest management and the cumulative effects of multiple forms of development. There is abundant evidence that most species are not in danger of being extirpated from the boreal forest due to these anthropogenic changes. A few species, including woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), have, however, undergone long-term range contractions. Significant gaps in our ability to assess the effects of natural resource development on biodiversity in the boreal zone are the lack of long-term spatial and population data to monitor the impact of forest changes on ecosystems and species.

Plain Language Summary

This paper examines the effects of industrial-caused change on the terrestrial biodiversity of Canadian boreal forests. Human development in the boreal forest has generated concern about the risk to this biodiversity and prompted research programs to understand the effects of these developments. We focused the review on trees, understory plants, insects, fungi, selected mammals, and songbirds because these groups have been most studied. We reviewed more than 600 studies and found that there was abundant evidence that most species are not in danger of extirpation from the boreal forest in response to anthropogenic change. However, a few species, including woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and white pine (Pinus strobus), have undergone long-term population declines. Some parts of the boreal zone are more changed by developments than others including by cumulative effects of several types of development. Changes in community composition are prevalent, however, in response to large-scale conversion of forest types, changes in stand structures and age distributions, and altered landscape structure as a result of forest management and habitat loss associated with other developments such as oil and gas, hydroelectric, and mining. To assess the effects of forest management on biodiversity in the boreal zone, we need both long-term spatial data to monitor the impact of forest changes on species and ecosystems, and direct long-term monitoring of biodiversity in the boreal.

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