- identify the boundaries of the Boreal forest region on a map;
- understand that the Boreal forest region is Canada’s largest forest;
- learn the importance of this area to birds; and
- spread awareness about the Boreal forest region.
Students investigate the importance of the Boreal forest region to wildlife, and birds in particular, and organize a display to make others aware of their findings.
The Boreal forest region covers slightly more than half of our country and spreads across nearly every province and territory. It is the largest intact forest left on Earth and contains more freshwater wetlands than almost anywhere on our planet. Not surprisingly, it is home to a vast array of birds and other wildlife species. Check out these statistics:
- Every spring, nearly three billion warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, hawks, sparrows, and other birds migrate to Canada's Boreal forest to nest.
- Every autumn, about five billion adult birds and their young migrate from this forest to their winter homes.
- About 60 percent of all Canadian landbirds and nearly 30 percent of all landbirds in North America breed in the Boreal region.
- About 200 landbird species breed in our Boreal forest; 14 of these species live only there and do not migrate.
The bad news is that many Boreal birds are in trouble. Several migratory species that depend on Canada's Boreal forest for nesting are declining. These include the yellow-bellied sapsucker, the whitethroated sparrow, the Boreal chickadee, Swainson’s thrush, and many others. It's not clear why this is happening, but increasing threats from industrial development play a big part. According to Global Forest Watch, over one million hectares of Canadian forest are cut each year. In Ontario alone, up to 85,000 bird nests are destroyed annually by logging operations. Mining, oil and gas exploration, hydro power development, and agriculture also damage the Boreal forest.
The good news is that Canada’s Boreal forest still contains some of the world's last significant wilderness areas. One way students can help us learn to live in balance with its bounty of biodiversity is to educate others about the amazing Boreal forest.
Have students organize a Boreal Forest Day for the school as a way to spread awareness. Have them recommend the best spot for the display, such as the school gym or a busy hallway.
- Suggest that a large map will be a crucial element of a display for the event. Have students brainstorm what other creative elements can be included, such as books, posters, tape recordings or CDs of Boreal birdsongs.
- Have students research potential resources by visiting the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) and the Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI). CBI aims to protect Canada's Boreal forest through a wide variety of long-range initiatives. The BSI educates birdwatchers about the importance of the forest to migratory birds.
- When the project is completed, have your class invite other classes, the principal, and office staff to browse through the display. Write a press release and deliver a copy to them. Why not invite friends, family, and the members of your municipal council? By spreading the word, your students will be helping to conserve a crucial area for birds, wildlife, and humans.
Have students research some of the species of birds that use the Boreal forest and integrate their findings on the map. Which species migrate? Which species live there year-round? Which species have declining populations and why (consult www.cosewic.gc.ca as a resource).
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