The biodiversity of the boreal forest in Quebec is threatened

The boreal forest is under threat, although it has received less attention than the Amazon. It covers the entire Arctic Circle, passes through Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada. Its conservation is vital: it contains wetlands that filter millions of liters of water per day. In North America, at certain times of the year, the boreal forest is used by almost half of the birds in the region. A report on the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northwestern Quebec as COP15 biodiversity opens in Montreal, Quebec.

No more trees to hide

It’s simple, it’s our place. Without our forest, the rest of us lose language, culture… everything about it.“Behind the glasses, Ronald Brazeau looks tough. He’s part of the community.

Anishnabe. Like 70% of Canada’s indigenous peoples, her nation lives in a forest region. Here we are in northwest Quebec, in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. Ronald Brazeau sees the boreal forest shrinking every day: “We talk about carbon storage, but there is no more carbon there. You know, there is so much to trample on. She was a virgin about twenty years ago. They considered us an invisible people. There, today, they see us, try to recognize us and all that.”

60% of wild animals have disappeared in forty years

Henri Jacob has been leading the association for fifty years”

BOREAL ACTION” For the protection of the forest. It consists mainly of hardwoods and conifers like the black thorn forest. The warrior with the white beard and red jacket lives in the forest for at least one and a half months every year. He is not surprised. The NGO WWF estimates that in forty years, 60 % has disappeared”.It is recorded on the ground. We no longer see some nightingales; like a thrush, for 3-4 years. One of the insects I focus on is mainly bees because we have a lot of beehives. But again, I haven’t bitten in two years. For me, this is unusual. That doesn’t mean they’re gone, but they’re certainly in decline… If that’s not alarming, I wonder when it will be?.”

Activist Henri Jacob, head of Action Boréale.
Activist Henri Jacob, head of Action Boréale.

© Radio France
– Justine Leblond

In Quebec, more than 90% of the boreal forest is managed by the state. According to government figures, less than 1% of the forest is cut down each year. But increasingly, the so-called “roads” are being cut here. In fact, the roads are about ten meters wide. This completely changes the landscape and ecosystem of the forest, explains Clémentine Cornille, director of the regional council for the environment. “We have more than 62,000 km of roads in the region, which were built by forestry. There are also roads at the mining level. And then finally it turns into multi-purpose roads used by, for example, hunters, fishermen, trappers, four-wheelers, snowmobilers in the winter. Thus, the portrait of the forest has completely changed.” And these ways will multiply. Two years ago, the Government of Quebec announced its new National Wood Production Strategy: to almost double annual production by 2080, reaching 53 million cubic meters of wood cut each year.

Boreal forest, passed
Boreal forest criss-crossed by logging “roads”.

© Radio France
– Justine Leblond

Protection of the forest industry

For the forest industry, this goal does not conflict with the protection of biodiversity, as today almost all companies are certified. Like the Green First group, where Marie-Eve Sigouin is forestry director. “We are required to consider stakeholders in all our planning decisions, so if there are enquiries, complaints or comments, we need to address them and improve our practice. Our contractors are trained to identify certain species in the field or in certain areas, for example. You know, for sure, when you look at the hairstyle, you say “oh my god, the hairstyle is ugly”, you don’t see everything behind it to say well, we came there and protected such a sector. What people see is just an effect.”

Less than 9% of protected areas in Abitibi-Témiscamingue

However, the extent of this impact is difficult to measure: we do not even know all the species found in the boreal forest. Nicole Fenton, a professor at the University of Quebec’s Forest Research Institute, says there are thousands, surrounded by a variety of plant mosses. “The boreal forest, at first glance, seems quite poor. There are about ten species of trees and about fifty vascular plants. But the vast majority of biodiversity is hidden within groups such as bryophytes, which often look like just the green moss you walk on, but if you look at a stump or piece of dead wood, you can see fifty species living there..”

in Nicole Fenton's Biodiversity Lab at the University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
in Nicole Fenton’s Biodiversity Lab at the University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

© Radio France
– Justine Leblond

The Quebec government writes on its website that “cutting down trees does not cause deforestation (because) harvested areas regenerate“. In addition, this regeneration is long-term. In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, almost all of the forests over 100 years old have disappeared. “If we just have old forests or young forests, we lose. So we need landscapes where we can hold these natural dynamics, these processes, and then let things unfold naturally“. One of the goals to be signed at COP15 Biodiversity in Montreal is to have 30% of protected areas by 2030. In two years, Quebec has retained 17% of its territory, especially in the far north. . Here, Abitibi-Témiscamingue has less than 9% of protected areas.

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