Boreal Wetlands of Canada and the United States of America

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Bev Gingras
Stuart Slattery
Kevin Smith
Marcel Darveau
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The Canadian and Alaskan boreal zone is one of the most water rich areas in the world, and contains an estimated combined surface water and peatland area the size of Indonesia (∼1.94 million km2). Boreal wetlands are diverse in form and function and can be classified into five major types: bogs, fens, swamps, marshes, and shallow open water wetlands. The distribution and diversity of these wetlands is primarily a function of physical drivers (e.g., climate, topography), but is also influenced by biological drivers (e.g., humans, beaver). Boreal wetlands deliver a variety of important ecological goods and services with regulating, provisioning, cultural, and supporting benefits that directly and indirectly benefit humans. Some of these direct benefits are the Canadian and Alaskan boreal’s rich natural resources including peat, minerals, hydropower, trees, and oil and gas. However, extraction of these resources can bring a variety of landscape changes. Boreal wetland conservation efforts to address or prevent these landscape changes vary by jurisdiction but tend to fall into three groups: (a) establishing protected areas; (b) using practices that avoid or minimize net wetland loss and degradation; and (c) restoring and reclaiming to recover lost function. The Canadian and Alaskan boreal presents of the world’s great conservation opportunities; however, ongoing pressure from resource development means that collaboration of all people living, studying, harvesting/ extracting, and managing the boreal is required to conserve boreal wetlands in perpetuity