Kids Can – Issue #2
The World’s Largest Forest
Imagine the world’s largest forest. No, it’s not the Amazon rainforest. It’s the boreal forest! The boreal is larger than the remaining Brazilian Amazon rainforest.
Boreal means “northern”. That makes sense because this coniferous forest wraps around the northern hemisphere of the globe – just below the Arctic Circle.
What’s a coniferous forest?
- It’s a forest in which evergreens – trees with needles and cones – are the main type of vegetation. (Think Christmas trees!)
Canada is lucky enough to be home to 1/3 of the world’s boreal forest.
For such a big forest, the boreal produces awfully small trees! Can you guess why trees are smaller in the far north? That’s right. There’s a shorter growing season in the boreal forest. Winters are very long and summers are very short!
So many living things rely on the boreal forest – including us!
Forest dwelling woodland caribou
Approximately half of North America’s birds need the boreal forest. And some of Canada’s largest and most impressive mammals are found in the boreal including: woodland caribou, moose, elk, wood bison, grizzly and black bears, wolves, wolverines and Canada lynx.
The boreal forest is working hard to help keep the planet healthy.
How can a forest keep the planet healthy?
Well, millions of gallons of water are filtered (naturally) in its wetlands every day. The boreal also helps keep the air clean. Like all trees, the trees in the boreal give out oxygen – that humans and animals need to survive. The boreal takes in a lot of our bad carbon emissions (from driving cars and flying planes and heating our buildings) and stores this bad carbon in its soil, peat and trees. Just like trees in your yard help keep your house cool, this forest helps keep the world cool!
GUITARS, CHEWING GUM, LUMBER, SHAMPOO, DIAPERS, TIRES, HOCKEY STICKS – What do all these products have in common?
They all come from trees! Did you know there are over 500 products made from trees?
We all rely on forests for so many of the things we do in our lives.
Many of Canada’s most important natural resources are found in the boreal forest. Humans rely on logging, mining and oil and gas exploration in the boreal. But all this human activity in the forest is damaging it. So we need to find some balance between keeping the forest healthy and using its natural resources. Everyone wins when the boreal forest is healthy.
Summer camp in the world’s largest forest?
Each year, young people, ages 9-13, have the opportunity to attend the Boreal Forest Discovery Camps in the Slave Lake and High Prairie regions of Alberta. The camp offer students the opportunity to learn more about the boreal forest first hand. Hiking, animal studies and canoeing are all part of the adventure. The camp includes lessons from foresters. Foresters are scientists who work with logging companies. The foresters teach campers how to measure the height of a tree and how to figure out the age of a tree. Foresters also teach campers how to properly plant seedlings (new trees). They talk about their work as foresters. One of their most important responsibilities is to make sure that trees will grow back in the area where they have cut them down.
Kids learn a lot about the boreal forest by attending the camp – but the one question on every camper’s mind is about bears. Kids want to know if camp leaders and foresters have ever encountered a bear in the boreal. And they’re particularly interested in the techniques used to keep bears away!
Not everyone can take a tour of the boreal forest but everyone can help the forest. What can you do?
There are lots of little things that everyone can do to help. Every time you and your family recycle paper, you’re helping the boreal forest. The less paper you use, the fewer trees need to be cut.
Campers figuring out the age of a tree at Boreal Forest Discovery Camp – run by Northern Lakes College and Lesser Slave Forest Education Society Photo:Lesser Slave Forest Education Society
Every time you and your family walk instead of taking the car – you are helping the boreal forest and all the species (including humans!) that rely on it. The less gas we use, the less often companies need to go into the boreal forest to explore for gas and oil!
Jump on the Walking School Bus
Why not try a walking school bus? What’s a walking school bus? It’s a group of kids walking to school with an adult “driver” who makes sure that kids on the “bus” are safe and that everyone makes it to school on time. And all this happens without using any gas!
Monsignor J. Smith Elementary/Junior High School, in Calgary, has been operating a walking school bus for 3 years and more and more kids are taking part every day. Just as with the real thing, it’s possible to miss this school bus. If you don’t show up at your stop on time, this bus is leaving without you!
It might be hard to believe, but all the little things we do to help the environment add up and have a big impact!
Students in Alberta take part in a “walking school bus” Photo credit:SHAPE