Canada’s Boreal Forest Holds Largest Store of Unfrozen Freshwater

Canada’s 1.3 billion-acre boreal forest contains more unfrozen freshwater than any other ecosystem on the planet, according to a new report by the Pew Environmental Group. With about 25 percent of the world’s wetlands, millions of lakes, and thousands of rivers, the boreal forest contains about 197 million acres of freshwater. Its extensive undammed rivers are a refuge for many of the planet’s sea-run migratory fish, including half of the remaining populations of North Atlantic salmon. And its role as a massive carbon vault provides an estimated $700 billion annually as a buffer to climate-related food and water shortages globally, according to the report, which is the first of its kind. But the Canadian boreal has also been increasingly targeted for large-scale industrial activities, with more than 180 million acres already affected by forestry, road building, mining, oil and gas extraction, and hydropower. While more than 12 percent of the boreal is already strictly protected, the report recommends more water-focused conservation efforts, including conservation of the entire Mackenzie River watershed.