Politicians persuaded to save Canada boreal forest

Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:46pm EST
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By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Politicians actually listened when experts told them to protect Canada's boreal forest, a potent weapon against global warming, and the plan for this vast green area could work on some of the world's other vital places, scientists told Reuters.

Bigger than the Amazon and better than almost anywhere else on the planet at keeping climate-warming carbon out of the atmosphere, the boreal forest stretches across 1.4 billion acres (566.6 million hectares) from Newfoundland to Alaska.

More importantly, the boreal is in good condition, and the scientists' plan aims to keep it that way.

"There's not a lot of these really big chunks of ecosystem left," said Stuart Pimm, a conservation biologist at Duke University, said in a joint interview on Tuesday with several environmental experts.

"So we understand that were we to destroy this, the consequences would be vast. The carbon implications alone are significant, especially at a time when 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation."

Pimm and 13 other environmental experts are part of an international team to be formally unveiled this week, which will monitor the protection of the boreal forest.

This continent-wide swath, covered mostly with fir trees and wetlands, is the world's largest carbon "bank" on land, storing almost twice the carbon per square yard (meter) as tropical forests because of the rich composition of its soil.

The area now holds 186 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 27 years worth of global carbon emissions. If all of the boreal carbon was released, it would theoretically accelerate global warming by 27 years.   Continued...

<p>A bull moose is seen in this 2000 handout image released on November 19, 2008, at Twin Lakes, in the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, Northern Rockies, British Columbia, which is part of the Canadian boreal forest. REUTERS/Wayne Sawchuk/Handout</p>