Wealth of the woodlands
The Boreal Shield ecozone contains much of Canada’s largest forest: a belt of spruce and balsam fir some 1,000 kilometres wide in places, stretching from northern Saskatchewan to Newfoundland and Labrador. Almost 70 percent of the ecozone’s forest — some 106 million hectares — is timber-productive land, which amounts to almost half of the Canadian total.
The bulk of this land lies in Quebec and Ontario, which together have 40 percent of Canada’s commercial forest. Across the Boreal Shield ecozone, the forestry industry harvests some 400,000 ha of timber a year. In terms of volume of wood cut, Quebec and Ontario rank second and third after British Columbia. This wood is turned into lumber and sawmill products, but the greatest portion is reserved for pulp and paper production. In Quebec, most of the productive forest of the Boreal Shield extends as far as 52° North, while the pulp and paper industry is based along the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, and Saguenay rivers. In Ontario, the productive forest is concentrated north of Lake Superior, where pulp and paper mills provide the only economic base for many communities.
Decades of harvesting spruce and balsam fir — the best sources of wood pulp for paper manufacturing — have had an effect on the landscape.
In the Boreal Shield, roughly 90 percent of the harvest is carried out by clear-cutting. With this method, all commercially usable trees in a block
of forest — as large as 60 ha — are felled at once. After cutting, the ground is prepared for new growth. Renewing the forest — by letting it reseed naturally, or through replanting by hand or machine — does not always guarantee the growth of commercially valuable species. Careless clear-cutting can cause environmental disruption, notably soil erosion and the loss of wildlife habitats. Extensive use of clear-cutting poses another threat. It puts such pressure on the boreal forest that original species disappear. As a result, the fabric of the boreal forest is changing. Broadleaf species such as poplar and birch now usurp a domain once predominantly spruce and pine.
A map of Canada highlights the Boreal Shield region, which then recedes and is replaced by a more detailed map of the region. A menu offers:
• Shield mining output
• Tree species in the Shield
Clicking on any of them opens a text box with detailed information.