Program ID: Innovation Anthology #24
Program Date: 04/05/2007
Development and Conversion of the Boreal Forest
With all the development in the boreal forest, one of the major concerns for ecologists is the conversion or permanent loss of forest to grasses and agricultural land.
When Dr. Phil Lee looked at development trajectories for the Integrated Landscape Management Program at the University of Alberta, he found a typical pattern has repeated itself since the 1940’s.
Oil and gas exploration opens up the land with seismic lines, wellsites and roads. This is followed by logging and then agricultural development. Inevitably the forest gives way to grasses and shrubs.
DR. PHIL LEE: We’re starting to see that ecosystem conversion now from strictly a forested system to one that supports a mix of grassland and shrub land species. They facilitate the invasion of organisms that are not traditionally associated with the boreal north into the boreal north. We’re already seeing a lot more white tailed deer and coyotes in the south. We now have tracking evidence that coyotes are fairly common in black spruce bogs. Fifty years ago there was absolutely no reports of that occurring in the boreal north but we believe seismic lines have brought them in.
Dr. Phil Lee recommends one way to break this pattern of conversion is to plan development so it happens simultaneously. This makes restoring the forest more possible.
FOR INNOVATION ANTHOLOGY, I’M CHERYL CROUCHER