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In the far-north latitudes, just below the treeless tundra of the polar region, a forest of evergreen trees encircles the earth. This is the boreal forest, and it is the biggest terrestrial ecosystem in the world. It is also largely intact, free of roads and industrial development -- especially in Canada, where more than 1.3 billion pristine acres are found. The global boreal forests are larger than even the Amazon rainforest.

Like the Amazon, the boreal forest is of critical importance to all living things. Its trees and peatlands comprise one of the world's largest "carbon reservoirs"; carbon stored in this way is carbon not released into the atmosphere, where it would trap heat and accelerate global warming. Its wetlands filter millions of gallons of water each day. And as a vast and intact forest ecosystem, it still supports a natural food web, complete with large carnivores like bears, wolves and lynx along with thousands of other species of plants, mammals, birds and insects. The boreal forest is also home to hundreds of First Nations communities, many of which rely on fishing, hunting and trapping for their livelihoods.

Despite its global significance, Canada's boreal forest is in great danger today. Large industries -- timber, mining, oil, gas, and hydropower companies -- are eyeing it for development, and less than 8 percent of the boreal forest is protected from large-scale industrial development. NRDC is partnering with many other environmental groups and with First Nations to forge lasting agreements that will ensure the survival of Canada's boreal forest -- to stay abreast of our work in the boreal, bookmark this page and check back. And to learn when you can take online action to help protect the boreal, subscribe to Earth Action, NRDC's biweekly email alert.

Read on for a close-up look at some of the plants, animals and natural systems that make the boreal so special.

last revised 7/20/2004

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