Welcome to the world’s largest intact forest: Canada’s boreal

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Editor’s Note: Today's guest author is Steve Kallick, from the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign. We are excited to support Pew in the development of this narrated tour and think that Google Earth is a great way to make Canada’s boreal forest accessible to the world.

In just three minutes, you can take a non-stop, coast-to-coast Google Earth narrated tour of Earth’s “green halo:” the boreal forest. The Pew Environment Group takes you over the vast northern forests and waterways and unveils an ecosystem that stores twice as much carbon per acre as tropical rainforests, holds more freshwater than any other continental-scale ecosystem and teems with wildlife. Watch the tour below or download the KML file to view in Google Earth.

Pew’s Google Earth tour shows why the boreal forest is so important.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to protect our oceans, preserve wildlands and promote clean energy. Pew and its sister organization, the Canadian Boreal Initiative, developed this tour to illustrate the nature of the blue forest and its ability to store massive amounts of carbon, primarily in its soil and wetlands. The tour is featured at the launch of Google Earth Outreach in Canada, happening this week.

Viewers will see bears, wolves, and caribou that still roam this vast landscape, learn about aboriginal communities that depend on the boreal, view the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the most important wetlands in the world, and the last refuges for North American Atlantic salmon.

The Peace-Athabasca Delta viewed in the Pew Environmental Group's new Google Earth tour.

Unfortunately, Canada’s boreal forest is increasingly affected by large-scale industrial activities. A rapidly expanding footprint of development already includes 180 million acres (728,000 km²) affected by forestry, road building, mining, oil and gas extraction, and hydropower.

Pew and CBI have worked with aboriginal communities, conservation groups, federal, provincial and territorial governments to protect the boreal, resulting in 185 million acres set aside from development to date, including key wetland and river areas. That total represents more than 12% of Canada’s 1.2 billion-acre (nearly 4.9 million km²) boreal forest.

Visit us online to learn more about this new tour and the steps we can take together to protect this global treasure.