Happy World Wetlands Day!

Every year on February 2, the world celebrates the ecological integrity and sustainable use of wetlands around the globe. World Wetlands Day has been recognized in more than 120 countries since the signing of the Wetlands Convention in Ramsar, Iran on February 2, 1971.Canadians can be especially proud when it comes to their water.More surface freshwater is held within Canada than any other country. The vast majority lies within the Boreal Forest, stretching from Newfoundland to the Yukon. All this water, coupled with the Boreal forest’s compact growing season, makes it a haven for all wildlife, particularly birds.

In one of the world’s largest migrations, billions of birds migrate from the Boreal forest to wintering grounds in the United States and the tropics, returning each spring to nest. More than 300 species, including large portions of the global population of many species, nest and breed in the Boreal forest largely because of the region’s abundant wetlands and undammed waterways.Water is the defining element of the Boreal forest. Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, receives most of its water from the Boreal forest. The Mackenzie river, Canada’s wildest big river that stretches over 4,200 kilometers, is also the Boreal forest’s longest river.

The rivers, lakes, swamps, bogs and marshes of the Boreal not only host billions of birds, but also play a critical role in stabilizing the Earth’s climate. The Boreal’s  ice-locked and water-saturated forests and peatlands, and sediments in its lakes and deltas, are some of the largest storehouses of carbon on the planet. They take up and release greenhouse gases, making them key regulators of climate through their role in the global carbon cycle.

But the Boreal forest is under pressure from industrial development and climate change.

Birds at Risk: The Importance of Canada’s Boreal Wetlands and Waterways, examines the impact of industrial expansion on three natural areas in the Boreal that are critical for birds. Produced by Nature Canada, Boreal Songbird Initiative, and Natural Resources Defense Council, the report examines the importance of Canada’s wetlands and waterways for birds and highlights conservation opportunities to save Canada’s freshwater and the billions of birds that depend on it.

Stay tuned for excerpts from Birds at Risk in the coming weeks as we explore the importance of the Boreal forest for birds and people.

Want to take action to protect Canada’s water bodies today? Show your love for your favorite water body by signing our Love My Lake Declaration!

With excerpts from A Forest of Blue – Canada’s Boreal Forest: The World’s Water Keeper.

Image of Oscar Lake

Oscar Lake, Northwest Territories by D. Langhorst, Ducks Unlimited

Image of a Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird breeds in the Boreal forest. It’s facing a 90% population decline. Photo: Jeff Nadler