The world’s forests cover 31 per cent of the global land area. These diverse ecosystems, which include the lush Amazonian jungle and the Canadian boreal forest, are home to about 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. It’s no wonder that the United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests.
It is estimated that about two-thirds of all Canadian species find a habitat in one of Canada’s nine forest ecozones (or forest types). Indeed, these species rely almost exclusively on the forest they live in to get everything they need: shelter, food and water. , Although industry has recently put efforts into harvesting forests in a sustainable fashion by protecting forested areas and conserving wildlife species, so much damage has already been done. When sustainable forestry isn’t practiced, wildlife often pays the price. As a result, 340 Canadian forest species are at-risk in Canada. So how can these critters recover? Biologists across the map are trying to figure out what threats have a negative impact on populations. Without further adieu, here are the leading culprits:
Habitat loss and degradation
This is the main threat to most forest-relying species at risk. Logging and development of mature deciduous forests has left the Cerulean Warbler nearly homeless, causing the species to become of special concern, as it only breeds in forests with tall, well spaced trees with an open understory.
Fragmentation or the division of habitat in smaller patches can be an issue as it makes it easier for predators to hunt species in open habitats, as is the case for the threatened woodland caribou. Moreover, some species are “area sensitive,” meaning the size of their habitat is very important in their survival, like the endangered spotted owl, which needs large forested areas to hunt.
Invasive non-native species
Invasive species can literally take over an area by using most or all of the available resources, making it impossible for another species to thrive. Since the red squirrel was introduced to Newfoundland, there has been less and less food for the Endangered red crossbill. It seems the squirrel is able to outsmart its competition by gathering more seeds than the crossbill can handle.
Hunting and harvesting continues to be a threat to the western population of the wolverine, a species of special concern. And while managing the harvest of these predators has helped, hunting and harvesting the wolverine still remains an issue, as the value of its pelt remains quite high.
Other threats, like the modification of the forest’s ecology through fire suppression, climate change, and disturbance by recreational activities, are also great threats that may affect forest wildlife species. So what can you do? Get behind the International Year of Forests. Read up on the issues and bring them to light to your family and friends.