By Dr. Jeff Wells, Boreal Songbird Initiative
One of the world’s greatest migrations is happening now. Billions of migratory birds are heading from the U.S., Central and South America to what’s been dubbed “North America’s bird nursery” —the sprawling billion-plus-acre boreal forest that spans the continent from Alaska across Canada to Newfoundland and Labrador—to nest and produce next year’s generation of birds.
However, as abundant as they are, boreal birds face myriad challenges and threats to their habitat. Some of the most iconic species have suffered dramatic declines in recent decades.
Boreal Chickadee. Photo by Dan Arndt
A new science report – Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why it Matters – released May 5 , recommends protecting at least 50 percent of the boreal forest from industrial development. That level of conservation is vital to provide birds the best chance of maintaining healthy populations for hundreds of species of birds that rely on the boreal forest for nesting and migratory stopover..
The report, produced by Ducks Unlimited and the Boreal Songbird Initiative, offers scientific support for expansive, landscape-scale habitat conservation in large, interconnected protected areas that are necessary to help ensure the diversity of species . It also showcases significant areas across Canada where birds, landscapes and biodiversity are extraordinarily special.
The report also reveals often unappreciated roles boreal birds play in providing ecosystem services—pollinating plants, redistributing nutrients, and controlling pests, for example—and the value they add (more than $100 billion to economies in the U.S. and Canada). It also emphasizes the integral role birds play in the culture of Aboriginal Peoples throughout the boreal.